When Tanai Smith showed up for work one day this past November, she began experiencing sharp pains on the right side of her stomach.
One month prior, the 25-year-old mother of one from Baltimore had gone for an annual checkup with her gynecologist. According to Smith, the unnamed doctor informed her that her IUD was somehow missing, and subsequently sent her for two separate ultrasounds. Neither scan could reveal the location of the IUD, either.
The lost intrauterine device (more commonly known as an IUD) had been implanted in Tanai Smith’s uterus just six weeks after her daughter was born, in 2014. Smith says she’d been told the birth control would be effective for five years, but just three years later and it seemed to have vanished.
When Tanai’s pain worsened, she decided to leave work three hours early, and drove herself to the emergency room. X-rays showed that her IUD was now unfortunately inside her stomach. She took the images and showed them to her doctor.
“I went and talked to my OB-GYN, told him everything that was going on and even showed him the X-ray picture that they allowed me to take,” Smith wrote on her GoFund Me page. “So he said I have to get surgery. So I asked him how would they have to get it out and he told me they would cut me right under my belly button and use a scope.”
But Smith reports that when she woke from surgery on December 13, 2017, there were not one but three incision marks. She says she was told that the IUD had broken into pieces and travelled to her liver, but that the surgeon was able to get them out. And even though she was still bleeding, the hospital released her to go home.
Tanai was rushed back to the hospital that night, due to what turned out to be internal bleeding.
According to Smith, when they opened her back up to see what was going on, her ovaries were “black and they had to give me a hysterectomy. After the surgery i went into septic shock causing me to be in ICU for a few weeks.”
Due to organ failure, she was placed on a ventilator and had to receive dialysis. Tanai didn’t see her daughter for three weeks, because she didn’t want her to be frightened by all of the medical equipment.
It was during this time when Tanai began to lose feeling in her hands and feet.
“At the end of my third week in the hospital, sensation returned to my hands while my toes began to blacken from necrosis, tissue death due to loss of blood flow,” she wrote. “On February 2, almost two months after my first surgery, I was finally discharged with a prognosis that hung over me for months: When I felt ready, I’d need to return for the removal of all toes on my left foot and the tips of my right toes.”
Tanai Smith’s toes were amputated in early May, and she began the long process of finding her new normal.
Despite Planned Parenthood’s claim that IUDs are relatively safe, the truth appears to be much more complicated. Between the years of 2008 and 2013, there were reports of 1,322 uterine perforations, and 4,775 “device dislocations” like Tanai’s, resulting from just one of two types of IUD. Other side-effectsmay include cramping, infertility, abscess, an elevated risk of PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), and a doubled risk for ectopic pregnancy--even long after the IUD has been removed. Furthermore, because the small t-shaped device works to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, a woman with an IUD will theoretically be experiencing a number of early abortions, putting her at greater risk of developing breast cancer.
As for Tanai Smith, she is mostly just grateful to be alive. And she’s telling her story, she says, in hopes of helping other women. “Sometimes things happen in your life...But what you should be asking is what can i learn from it. Im (SIC) finally coming out to tell my story because i feel like i (SIC) can help someone...with faith and God...i (SIC) am here today.”