Tanai Smith had planned for her daughter to grow up with siblings.
As Kidspot reports, the 25-year-old student from Baltimore, Maryland gave birth to her daughter, Morgan, about three years ago. While still recovering from the delivery, Tanai spoke to her doctor, who recommended she get a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD). Tanai was told that it was a safe, low-maintenance option and she was unlikely to have any complications.
About eight weeks later, Tanai went back to her ob-gyn to get the IUD inserted. She told Women’s Health:
“When trimming my IUD string, which is supposed to hang one to two inches long in the cervix so it can be easily located and removed, my doctor said she’d accidentally cut it too short. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.”
At first, Tanai experienced some cramping and headaches, but they soon disappeared. Her periods were normal, and she didn’t think much about the IUD for three years. Then came the doctor’s appointment that changed everything.
In October 2017, Tanai went to a new doctor for her annual check-up. When the gynecologist asked about birth control, Tanai said she had an IUD. But the doctor couldn’t confirm it. Tanai remembered:
“During my vaginal exam, she told me she couldn’t see my IUD. Although the devices sometimes can fall out, I knew for a fact that mine hadn’t.”
The doctor sent Tanai for an ultrasound of her stomach, uterus, and cervix that same day. But again, they found no sign of the IUD. Because the mom wasn’t experiencing any pain or health issues, she didn’t think anything of it.
Then, a month later, the pain began.
Tanai told Women’s Health she was at work one day in November when “I felt like I’d been stabbed right below my belly button. The pain, which came and went, was totally different from period cramps and absolutely unbearable.”
The pain was so intense that the mom left work early to go to the emergency room. At the hospital, Tanai was given an X-ray that found what the ultrasound had missed:
“My IUD was in there, alright: It was wedged into the wall of my stomach.”
Two days later, Tanai was back at her ob-gyn’s office with a copy of the X-ray. She was sent to a specialist and scheduled for surgery to remove the IUD.
She told Women’s Health that the doctors had two theories on why the IUD had moved up into her stomach:
“Either it was put in too soon after childbirth, and the healing of my uterus pushed it up, or the tightening of my muscles during each cycle may gradually have pushed the device upward — but doctors weren’t exactly sure why it happened.”
By now, the pain had subsided, but Tanai agreed that she needed the IUD out of her body. On December 13, she went to the hospital for what was supposed to be a simple outpatient procedure — the doctor would make one incision under her belly button and remove the IUD with a scope.
However, when the mom woke up after the surgery, there were three incisions in her abdomen. Doctors told Tanai’s mother that the device had broken into multiple pieces and moved from her stomach to her liver. Though they had managed to get all the pieces, they had been hard to locate and remove.
Tanai went home but began bleeding heavily overnight. The next day, her mother called an ambulance to take her back to the hospital where ER doctors agreed that she shouldn’t be bleeding so much. Tanai was given an X-ray and rushed back to emergency surgery.
She would later learn that during the emergency operation, “The surgeon had removed both my ovaries and my uterus, which had blackened inside my body.”
Doctors theorized that Tanai had picked up the bacteria during her first surgery due to the stress her body was going through at the time. However, they weren’t able to explain whether the surgery or the IUD was responsible.
After her second surgery, Tanai developed sepsis. Her kidney function dropped, so she was also put on dialysis. Her organs began to fail. As she wrote on her GoFundMe page:
Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong. My parents were told that I was the worst patient on the floor and that they didn’t think I was going to make it.
To fight the infection, Tanai was given drugs that directed blood flow away from her extremities and to her vital organs. Her hands and feet began to tingle and go numb. Doctors warned Tanai that she might end up losing her limbs.
After three weeks, the mom began to improve. Feeling returned to hands. However, her toes had turned black from necrosis.
In February 2018 — about two months after the surgery to remove her IUD — Tanai was able to leave the hospital. However, she would have to return a few months later for a procedure to amputate the toes on her left foot and the tips of the toes on her right foot.
She told Women’s Health about the day one of her toes simply fell off her left foot when she took off her sock. Because the nerve endings were dead and the toes were blackened and hard, she couldn’t feel it. But it was still upsetting:
Although there was no sign of bleeding, my middle toe, I noticed, had fallen off into the fabric. Like a baby tooth, it had been loose. And yet, seeing it neatly detached from my body still totally freaked me out. Instead of screaming, I sprung into action, jumping up to grab a Ziploc bag and seal the toe inside.
When she called the doctor, he told her to just throw it away.
Tanai has now been through the amputation and is trying to move on with her life. She hasn’t been able to return to school or her two part-time jobs, though she can care for her daughter.
The mom has started a GoFundMe to help with everyday expenses for her and her daughter. She told Women’s Health:
I expected my amputations to bring me some sense of closure, but every day I think about what happened and wonder, why me? It’s always on my mind — I wish I knew what went wrong, so when my daughter asks why she has no brothers or sisters, I can explain.
Though she knows hers is a rare case, Tanai hopes it will prompt other women to learn more about the complications of birth control.
“I don’t regret getting the IUD in the first place — I did my research — I just never heard of complications as severe as what I’ve experienced,” she said.