Tuesday, February 28, 2012

6 Days Post-Op - Back at the Hotel

"I'm taking her home with me,
All dressed in white;
She's got everything I need,
Some pills in a little cup."

 -- A Perfect Circle, The Nurse Who Loved Me
I've been out of the hospital for three days now (since Saturday)! =D

On Friday, I was able to get up and walk around a bit. I managed to make it to the door to my hospital room and back (with help of course). Moving around stretched sutures and hurt a bit, but mostly it was just exhausting. Those few steps made me feel as though I'd run a mile. Later I tried again and made it out the door and down the hall a bit before returning. Baby steps!

Erin loaned me a small mirror, and I got a better look at the new parts. The brusing is surprisingly minor. I've seen pictures of people covered in bruises from thigh to thigh, but in my case I've just got some light patchy bruises on each thigh, and some bruising and swelling on my left outer labia.

Of course, the sutures look a bit ugly at the moment, but even the nurses were complimenting them, saying that they would heal very nicely and with very little scarring. Dr. Bowers was even asking me to send her pictures once everything's healed, so she can use my results as an example on her website. =D

After a couple of days, the drain slowed down considerably, but also started to sting pretty badly. Thankfully, on Saturday morning Dr. Bowers came in to remove it. She snipped the stitch holding it in place and slid it out. I was surprised at how long it was; apparently it had been curved up and around through both outer labia.

There were one or two nurses that we really disliked, but most of them were great. Our definite favorite was a woman named Pat. She was sweet, thorough, and genuinely invested in my well-being, but never sugar-coated things, and also took the time to make sure Erin was fed and comfortable, which helped Erin to help take care of me. We made sure to give her a hug before we left. =) 

I had thought that they would take the catheter and/or packing out before I left the hospital, but it turns out that both have to stay in until my followup appointment on Tuesday. >_<

We checked out of the hospital and headed back to the hotel Saturday afternoon. Erin helped me get dressed and gathered, then went to get the car while and one of the nurses loaded me in to a wheelchair.

The nurse wheeled me down to the front door, then helped me carefully transfer to the car, and on to the donut-shaped pillow we brought. The car ride was painful, but short, and Erin was careful to avoid jerks and bumps wherever she could. Our hotel has a parking lot in the basement, with spaces very close the elevator. The room is also pretty close to the elevator, only a few doors away, so the walk to the room was manageable.

Since we got back I've basically just been lying in bed, working through the Netflix instant queue with Erin (Memento, The Producers, Howl's Moving Castle), and playing PS3, DS, and Android games (PixelJunk Shooter, God of War II, Dungeon Siege III, New Super Mario Bros., Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, Words With Friends, Hanging With Friends, yesI'magameaddictshhhh!), while Erin reads manga online. Honestly it's been a lot like being at home, except that my lappy sucks too much to play DotA 2 or SW:ToR. Thank goodness for a room with free and decent internet access. =D

Overall it's pretty easy to stay happy and entertained, though we do both get a little stir-crazy. Erin makes almost-daily trips to Safeway or CVS pharmacy to pick up food and sundry useful supplies. I honestly don't know how I'd manage without her. She's been so amazing, doling out my meds, helping me get up and down, getting/making food, keeping me company. She's been like a super-nurse, except her shift never ends, which I feel bad about. She's too sweet for her own good; sometimes I can tell she's getting a little frazzled, and I have to remind her to slow down and take care of herself for a little while.

In the hospital, the nurses were keeping me clean-ish with washcloths, but after a couple of days at the hotel I was feeling pretty disgusting and decided to try a shower. Erin managed to wash my hair, while I spent most of my energy trying to balance and just generally rinse off. Unfortunately I pushed myself a little too hard, and ended up feeling a pretty faint and dizzy by the end. Still, after sitting down and recovering for a few minutes, it felt amazing to finally be clean again.

I'm still taking percocets for pain, which seem to be helping more and more as the pain from the stitches decreases. I still get random stinging from sutures, and strange zaps as nerves slowly re-establish themselves, but I swear that most of the pain at this point is from the catheter and packing. The packing causes lots of pressure, which is constant, but gets much worse if I try to sit up for any period of time.

The catheter doesn't help in the pressure department, and though I've gotten a little more used to the always-have-to-pee feeling, I don't think my body has. If I'm off the percocets for too long, everything gets generally tense and very uncomfortable in that area. The tubing has also gotten kinked once or twice,  before I figured out how best to situate it, and each time it has taken a bit to even figure out what was causing the extra pain.

My breasts have gotten slightly softer as the skin stretches, but they still have a long way to go. The stitches (in the creases underneath) get itchy from time to time, which is a good sign, and other than some minor aching here and there, they've been relatively pain-free.

Later today, we'll be going back to Dr. Bowers' office for the follow-up, and removal of the packing and catheter. I seriously can't wait, as I think these will ease my discomfort by a lot, but I'm also pretty nervous, because it means the start of dilating.

For a while, my body will see the new configuration as semi-foreign (like a piercing), and try to close things up. Among my bag of clothes from the hospital, we discovered my very own set of dilators (smooth medical-grade dildos is honestly the best descriptor =P), which I'll have to use routinely for a few months to keep things from collapsing. I suppose it can't be much worse than this damn packing, though. >_<

Friday, February 24, 2012

2 Days Post-Op - The Waiting Game

"My vagina has two sets of lips,
But I don't get monthly blood drips;
My vagina, hardly even used."
-- NOFX, My Vagina
We got to the hospital at 10:00am on Wednesday morning and checked in with the surgery center's admissions desk. After a few minutes, they called us to a little desk to have me sign a bunch of consent and release forms.

Another few minutes went by, and a nurse called us back in to the back rooms. She had me strip down and helped me change in to a hospital gown and silly paper booties. All my clothes went in to a plastic bag, and everything else, my wedding ring, tongue ring, cellphone, and wallet, I gave to Erin.

The nurse directed us to a small room with a recliner for me, where she put an inflatable warming blanket over me and attached a couple of wristbands for identification. She worked away at the computer, and gave me a few more forms to initial and sign saying that I knew who my doctors were and what I was getting. She also wrapped compression sleeves around my lower legs, which rhythmically contract to keep the blood flowing.

She then left, and we continued waiting. One-by-one over the next half hour or so, various people from the surgical team dropped by.

The anesthesiologist was the first to introduce himself. He was a nice, slightly quirky, wiry-looking guy who spoke quickly and wore a black bandana on his head. After he left, Dr. Bowers dropped by to say "hi", and to assure us that everything was going to go great. At this point we were both pretty excited, but Erin was also obviously nervous. She teared up a couple of times, but tried to hold back and smile to keep me from worrying too much. =3

Lastly, a sweet and reassuring younger woman who said she'd be helping with the surgery came in and asked me to come with her to the operating room. Erin and I gave each other a hug and a kiss, then parted ways. I was then led down a hallway in to the OR, where I lay on a flat table under some giant movable light structures, and people bustled around me. There was a slight depression in the table's surface, and they had me adjust until my butt was right at the edge of it.

They removed my gowns, so that I had just one loosely draped over me, and put oxygen tubes in my nose. My arms were propped straight out to the sides, and the anesthesiologist started telling dorky jokes while he inserted the IV in to my left forearm. The last thing I remember was chatting with the anesthesiologist and assistant woman about it being a little awkward that everyone in the room was there for me, and then I was out.

I woke up in the recovery room around 4:30, and a nurse immediately noticed me and offered me some bits of ice, which I happily chewed. Within half an hour or so, I was fairly lucid, and they wheeled me to my room. Erin was there waiting for me, grinning from ear to ear, and she gave me a kiss.

Erin was planning to go back to the hotel to sleep, but I have the hospital room to myself, so they offered to wheel another bed in for her and she has stayed with me both nights so far. It's been so comforting to know that she's only a few feet away if I need her. On Thursday morning she went back to the hotel to shower and grab a few things, but otherwise she's been hanging out here, playing video games, and even eating hospital food with me.

The nurses are, for the most part, awesome, though there was one incident where a CNA was trying to adjust my tray and accidentally slammed it downward on to my crotch. I saw stars for a second and nearly swore, but it was an honest accident, and I did my best to keep calm while she apologized repeatedly.

My crotch has been completely bandaged over, with packing inside as well. I have a JP Drain coming out my left side which they have to empty red goo out of a few times a day, and a catheter tube going to my right. The catheter feels horrible, like I always have to pee, but I'm sort of getting used to it by now.

My breasts feel tight and tender, but don't hurt much. I really like the size, and I think I'll be really happy with them once the skin stretches and they settle. For now, they're just sort of stuck in place.

The pain in my groin area was fairly bad on the first night. The nurses gave me morphine through the IV, which helped a lot, and percocets by mouth, which didn't seem to help at all. For a while, there were rhythmic zaps of pain centralized in one spot, but I couldn't figure out what part it was originating from, because as far as my brain is concerned, the old nerve map of my genitalia is still valid, and nothing has changed. After a while it dawned on me that the zaps were almost definitely coming from my clitoris, which was exciting! Eventually I was able to get some sleep, and the pain was much better in the morning.

After spending Wednesday evening laying down, I decided to sit up and play around on the lappy on Thursday. That afternoon, Dr. Bowers stopped by. She told me that I looked like I was recovering well, and that she was really proud and happy with the way my surgery turned out. She also said that she's sure I'll like it. I hope she's right! =D

As the evening wore on, the pain from the sutures nearly went away, but it was replaced by a new aching throughout my entire lower abdomen. At first, I thought it was just from sitting in the same position for so long, so I carefully tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable spot. After a couple of hours of this, the pain just continued to get worse, so I told my nurse, who pointed out that it was probably gas build-up. She gave me some gas-ex, but said it would take hours to take effect. Since I was nearly in tears, and it was getting late anyway, she gave me some more morphine and an ambien to knock me out. This morning, I still feel a little bloated and sore, but much much better.

At 7am today, a new nurse came in to remove my dressings! She had me lay flat, and she slowly peeled the bandages off of my vagina (that still feels weird to say). I only got a short glimpse before she replaced the bandages with a maxi-pad, but so far it looks great! My labia are very swollen but good, and the clitoral hooding is perfect. Even though I knew logically that everything was there, it's nice and extremely exciting to be able to finally see it and know that it's real.

I should be able to get up and walk around a little today, which I can't wait for. I'm sick of being stuck to this bed. If all continues to go well, I should be checking out of the hospital tomorrow morning! W00t! =)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

T Minus 1 Day - Surgery Eve!

"Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya, tomorrow!
You're always a day away."
-- Annie (Annie), Tomorrow
Hooh! It's been a full week, as expected, which has kept my mind from wandering too much. Every once in a while a wave of realization will hit me, and I'll reel for a couple of seconds. It's finally here!

The flight from SLC to LAX was fine. After going through the body scanner, a TSA agent did give me a "thorough patdown", but she was very amiable and professional. The flight was short, but I'm already considering looking in to an upgrade for the trip back, just for slightly more comfortable seats.

Disneyland was a lot of fun, though the lines were longer than expected, and rides kept going down right when we wanted to go on them. Erin and I take a trip down there every couple of years, because it's an easy/fun road trip and we get to stop in Vegas, but I've never seen the rides go down that much.

We'd only planned to hang out with Erin's brother Chris while there, but we found out a couple of weeks ago that Erin's oldest brother, Dave, who lives in SLC, was coincidentally also going to the LA area at the same time as we were. He and his girlfriend ended up joining us at Disney, which was brilliant. Funnily, both of Erin's brothers are averse to roller coasters, so us three girls ended up going on Space Mountain without them.

The visit with the grandfolk on Sunday was good. Since we were exhausted from Disney, it was nice to just sit around chatting over dinner, and they're such good people.

I knew we'd forget to bring something from home. The something ended up being hairspray, a mouse for the laptop, and a car charger for our phones. The charger was the most problematic, since we use our phones for GPS directions. Thankfully we found a Best Buy (and grabbed a couple more video games to boot) before driving up to San Mateo.

We met with Dr. Bowers yesterday, and she talked us through the expected outcome and possible (but unlikely) complications. I thought I'd have a million questions, but I just kept looking at Erin, and neither of us could think of anything. I spent so much time over the last couple of years researching the surgery in general and Dr. Bowers in specific, I think all I really needed was to hear her reassurances. And she was amazingly reassuring.

She's obviously been at this a long time, and being trans herself, she has a unique and very comforting perspective. She said everything looked fine and that there shouldn't be any problems.

After that, we went and picked up my prescriptions (laxative, bowel prep, pain relievers, antibiotics, and antibacterial cream) and some supplies, i.e. neosporin, baby wipes, and clear liquids for me to subsist on today. We'd thought about doing something touristy for the remainder of yesterday. Instead, we relaxed in the hotel for a while, then went out to a steak joint for my last meal. It was a nice recharge that I think we both needed.

We saw Dr. Beck this morning, and he was a little less personable than Marci, but still very nice. After he took some pictures and measurements of my chest, he had us work with his assistant Jasmine on sizing and such, and she was wonderful. She knew just what to say to boost my confidence and make me feel good about what I'm doing.

Next, we had to drop by the hospital for some quick blood work. Then back to the hotel to start in on the bowel prep to clean me out. The solution came in a jug, which I filled with water to mix it. I was then supposed to drink a glass every ten minutes until gone.

The first five or six glasses went down fine, but after that, the stuff started to make me nauseous. I know it was partly psychosomatic, so I did my best to power through it, but I couldn't seem to down a full glass without feeling like I was going to throw up. It didn't help that the jug was four freaking liters, meaning about 16 small glasses over the course of several hours to get through it. Ugh.

I also wasn't allowed to eat anything today, just liquids. Remarkably, I haven't been that hungry. A light snack probably would've helped settle my stomach when drinking the bowel prep, but I made do with ginger ale or apple juice chasers.

At this point, I'm just waiting for bed time so we can wake up and head in to the hospital. We're supposed to be there at 10:00am, but the actual surgery doesn't start until around 11:30. It should last around 4-5 hours, with both docs working at the same time. I'll be in the hospital for about three days, then back to the hotel for another week before heading home.

I half-expected to have a lot of doubts and moods swings to work through over the last week, which would've been normal, but I've had surprisingly little apprehension. I'm anxious and antsy, but I think I made up my mind and overcame my qualms a long time ago.

By now I'm just excited that the wait is finally over. Of course, this is also just another beginning, but in my head, it's the beginning of the rest of my life, and I know that I'm ready for it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

T Minus 5 Days - Heading Out Californee Way

"Airplane, airplane,
Don't you go down today;
Take me away, off to a better place,
You know just where I'd like to go;
Please get me there on time,
Don't delay me from losing my mind."
 -- Plain White T's, Airplane
I mentioned in my last post that I've had way too much to do. Well, other than at work, most of that ran out a couple of weeks ago. Since then time has been dragging, and I've had way too much time to sit around and think, and make myself anxious. I couldn't wait for today to come, just so that it could be over with.

I've had various pre-admission phone appointments over the last week with Dr. Bowers' staff, Dr. Beck's staff, and the hospital staff. We've booked flights, hotels, a rental car, etc. I think we're ready, but I know I'll forget something. Hopefully it's something stupid and small, like toothpaste. ;)

I stopped most of my hormones a little over a week ago. I'm still on a little bit of estrogen, but temporarily off progesterone, and thankfully I'll never have to take spiro (testosterone-blockers) again. Yay!

After a few days off hormones, I started having mild headaches that won't go away. Normally, the only time I get headaches is when I'm about to get sick, so it's been really scaring me. Getting sick right before surgery would not be good. So far, the headaches are the extent of the physical discomfort, though.

A few days ago the mood swings hit. It really seems unfair that I had to stop hormones during one of the most emotional times of my life. In addition to minor bouts of depression and anxiety, I've been feeling really self-centered. I'm making an effort to reach out to friends to help them, but at some point I also have to accept that it's ok to be a little self-involved right now, even though that's tough for me to do.

The great support I've gotten from friends and family has helped a lot. (THANK YOU!!!) I'm never down for too long before a new heartfelt text or Facebook message rolls in to remind us how loved we are. I also got an insanely sweet 'Good Luck' card from a bunch of friends that made me tear up a couple of times while playing Dungeons and Dragons. I am so freaking lucky.

My last day in the office was on Wednesday. It's strange thinking that I won't work again for around six weeks. My boss was super cool about it, though, and helped me wrap everything up and train people to cover for me. We had a last meeting to make sure everything was settled, and she kept telling me to forget about work for a while. =)

The only real uncertainty remaining is my time off work being qualified as medical leave. I'm still pretty sure it will go through, but they don't give the official word until I'm actually hospitalized, which seems idiotic.

Tonight, we're stopping by my sister's to receive a mystery present, then to Erin's mom's, and finally to the airport to fly to LA. Honestly, I'm a little bit terrified of the TSA right now. I've heard way too many horror stories of people who got pulled aside, outed, or berated because their bodies didn't look like "normal" male or female bodies under the scanners. I can deal with answering questions and outing myself. But I can be really defensive and ornery if I feel I'm being pushed farther than I should be, and the TSA are the last people I want to be ornery with. >_<

Tomorrow, we'll be in Disneyland with Erin's awesome brother who lives in that area. In two days, we'll be hanging out with Erin's grandparents and other family from around there before driving up to the San Francisco area. The last time I saw her grandparents, I'd just started transitioning, but didn't tell them. Later I found out that Erin's mom told them, and that they were amazing about it, so I'm excited to let them see the real me.

In three days, we'll be meeting with Dr. Bowers, then hanging out in San Francisco. In four, we'll meet with Dr. Beck, and I'll spend the day stuck in the hotel drinking a bowel prep, and not eating anything. And in five days, I'll be on the operating table!

It's so surreal to think that in less than a week, my body will be significantly changed forever. It's nerve-wracking, but it's exciting! At the same time, I know that the surgery itself is just the beginning, since I'll spend the next few weeks/months healing. Still, I'm huge on life experiences, I wouldn't trade this ride for anything.