11 February 2019
As I type this, it was one week ago that I was wheeled into surgery. There was a possibility of still being connected to my drain tube but I was sent home without that drain tube in place. While I was in the hospital I wasn’t draining much at all, and since I’ve been home it has steadily decreased and now resembles light spotting as if from my monthly cycle. My daily schedule is all over the place right now. When I’m awake I feel as coherent as I would on any average day, but when I get drowsy, regardless of the time, I fall into a deep sleep for hours. I’m attempting to keep meal times regular, but sometimes I can’t sleep until midnight. I’m just allowing my body to tell me what it wants.
All-in-all recovery has been steady and to be perfectly honest, boring. I’m not allowed to lift more than 10 lbs and I can’t sit upright. If any of you have had to reside in bed for more than a week you will understand. At least I can walk to the bathroom or kitchen to stretch my legs but my body longs for more exercise. I am, however, aware of the importance of allowing myself to heal. I’ve endured extended hospital stays for mini-strokes and heart scares. I’ve had to sit and rest after multiple eye surgeries, and reduce bending and activity following retinal hemorrhages. I would rather bore myself with lying around to recover than cause irreversible or unfix-able damage to the most important surgery of my life.
I was released from the hospital last Wednesday just hours after my bandage were removed. Just as Ann-Elizabeth and I were shuttled to Madison prior to surgery by a dear friend from Milwaukee, we were chauffeured home by another dear friend from Madison. We were unsure as to what day or time I would be released from the hospital so it made sense to make departure plans with someone local. After being discharged it took a while for me to make it from my 6th floor lodgings to the hospital entrance, as I only had the option of walking or laying on a gurney. I opted for the slow shuffling, think Tim Conway as Mr. Tudball in the Carol Burnett Show, rather than a corpse suddenly rising from a gurney like the Mummy’s Boris Karloff. I had spent the past 72 hours lying down and wanted to work my legs a bit.
We arrived home around 5:00 pm. All of the fluid that had been steadily infused into me over the past three days was encouraging me to visit the bathroom frequently. I was still getting used to the new method of urinating, something that was complicated by the fact that I had to use a squeeze bottle of warm water to rinse afterwards each visit i made. I was instructed that keeping the surgical site clean and dry was key to a quick, and more importantly, an uncomplicated recovery. Early in the evening I noticed certain areas of the surgical site appeared swollen and red. Over the next couple of hours it even started to “feel” swollen and uncomfortable.
Around midnight, after a few telephone calls to the plastic surgeon on call at University Hospital, the decision was finally reached that I needed to return to University Hospital at 8:00 am My poor wife spent the entire night watching over me while I got a few hours of sleep. At 6:00 am a wonderful friend arrived to drive me back to Madison. It was a rainy and icy morning but we got to University Hospital just before 8:00 am. I waited only a few minutes before I was taken to an exam room where I was soon joined by my plastic surgeon, the assistant doctor on my surgery, and my physician’s assistant. After an examination it was determined that everything was fine. The concern had been that a hematoma had formed. In reality what had happened is that when the bandages came off the previous day, everything was abnormally “normal”, but when I got home I had been vertical for the first time and some swelling had started to form. Usually for this type of surgery the site is swollen when the bandages are removed. In my case everything looked prefect until I started spending a little time being vertical, during my travelling to and settling in back at home.
Another thing that had been decided that morning was for me to restart the testosterone blocker even though I could no longer produce testosterone. My blood pressures while i the hospital had been rather high as it still was that morning on my unplanned return. Prior to beginning my transition I had been on a couple of medications for treating high blood pressure, an unfortunate complication of diabetes. The testosterone blocker that I was then prescribed had originally been developed as a blood pressure medication, so as its dosage increased I was weened off of my other pills. Then, when I ceased taking the testosterone blocker several days prior to surgery I had no medication to combat my hyper tension. Incidentally, surgery itself can raise blood pressure. Weary from the past 12 hours, but with ease of mind, I returned home to settle in.
The past several days have been relaxing. I have settled into the routine of eating a high protein diet, sleeping as much as possible, and keeping off of my feet. My wonderful wife has been taking extremely good care of me and handling everything from cooking meals to shoveling the snow. In three days, on Thursday, February 14th (Valentines Day), I return to the hospital for a follow-up examination.
I can’t quite express how affirming this surgery has been for me. I lived for almost 5 decades as a male, and I only knew one body. It’s not that I hated how I was born but I didn’t know any other way. In other words I didn’t know what I didn’t know. When Dr. Gast removed those bandages last Wednesday and I looked down, I had what my Aunt calls the “Ah ha!” moment. The week before the surgery I found myself questioning everything I have done these past three years since beginning my journey.
“What the hell was I doing? Am I really transgender? Do I really want to have this kind of permanent surgery?”
All of that doubt and questioning completely disappeared the moment I looked down. I had been given a gift. The gift of who I truly am. The affirmation that I am a transgender woman. And I am on the exact path I need to be on to become my authentic self.
A NOTE: This blog chronicles my experiences and my journey. I am not an expert or medical professional. I am learning as I grow and my experiences may differ from other transgender people. Everything is correct to my best understanding.