This is an account of almost 5 weeks of 1994, broken into 2 parts. The first 2.5 days, as recounted here, are about my journey to Neenah, WI for sex reassignment surgery. The rest of it is about my recovery from that surgery, both in Neenah and Bloomington, IN. That will be published on Thursday.
Most of the people referred to here were introduced in Diary: retrospection.
My Wisconsin Adventure
I reawoke when they brought be lunch (I can't remember what it was...something light). This time I was actually lucid and able to carry on conversations. Everyone who stopped by was as amazed as I was about the shortness of my operation. It finally dawned on me that I was through it. I had made it. Along the transition route, there had been several times when I had doubted that I would make it, but here I was.
I was hooked up to a demerol‑on‑demand dispenser and inspection of my hand showed that they had had trouble inserting it (two bruises of unknown origin). I wasn't in much pain though...until my left foot let me know something was wrong there, that is. I was very puzzled about how come my foot should be in so much pain, so I asked Craig, who didn't know either, though we guessed that perhaps it hurt because they don't make stirrups to match someone with my size feet (13-14W). He did help me to change my position in bed, though, so that I could press my foot against the bottom rail if it hurt, which seemed to lessen the pain. It was probably a pinched nerve.
For the next couple of days, I was in and out of a fog... perfectly lucid at times, but often falling asleep at a moment's notice. Tracey came up and took Alicyn back to Madison. Jody, Joanne, Steve/Stacy from St. Louis, and Elaine visited. I know this because I wrote it down on a tablet...my actual memory of the events is dim. I should have taken a camera to take pictures of people who visited. It might have helped me to remember.
My roommate checked out of the hospital on the third day, so I had the room alone and was finally able to see the flowers that had accumulated by the window. There were beautiful roses from April, nice arrangements from Emily and Jody, and a very nice arrangement from Erin and Theresa, complete with balloon. Several people called me on the phone and I enjoyed every one of those calls. I got lots of cards from people (some of them didn't arrive before I left, but the hospital forwarded them to my home address and I got them eventually...thank you so much everyone). One card in particular made me laugh...Steve B sent me a card that said, "Congratulations on your promotion" with a note that said "Harvest Foods didn't have any cards that were specifically for sex reassignment, so I thought this was appropriate."
I read from Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and listened to music and watched Comedy Central, which we don't get in my part of Arkansas. Mostly, I am told, I lay there with a big smile on my face.
On Friday, my daughter, Jen, arrived from Lincoln and she spent about 3 days with me, watching MST3K and letting me listen to her new ME tape (Yes, I am). It was so nice to see her again (I hadn't since xmastime of 1992). I also asked for the demerol‑on‑demand IV to be removed since, other than my foot, the most pain I was having was at the IV site. My wrist had begun to swell. The nurse tried first to connect it to my other hand and wrist, which resulted in 3 more bruises, followed by a hot burning sensation when she finally got it "inserted," which told me she hadn't gotten it inserted correctly. After it was removed, we did shots for a day, then went to demerol pills, which gave me severe headaches, so we stopped them, too.
By the end of the weekend, I was getting very bored with having to lay down, but when one is hooked to a catheter, there isn't a whole lot of moving around one can do.
April hadn't been able to come to Wisconsin. She had been bitten by an insect before leaving Japan and her leg was too swollen to drive up. So she arranged for me to fly to Indianapolis once I did get out. When Dr Schrang stopped by to see me on Monday, I asked him about flying out on Wednesday...he said he preferred that I get a good night's sleep before flying and so he told me he would release me on Tuesday...a day early...so that I could sleep in the hotel. He then removed the catheter, which caused me nearly to jump out of my skin. I was finally able to get out of bed! I was finally able to shower! Freedom at last!
I spent the evening before my last day in the hospital learning to walk again. I found that I didn't have that much trouble but I did tire more easily than I would have thought. I also visited Roulette and Rhonda in the next room and finally got to know them. Roulette was also up and around for the first time, so we took our walks together and talked about just about everything under the sun.
My last day in the hospital was mostly marked by impatience. I knew that I wouldn't be let out of the hospital until the afternoon, but I had no idea what time that would be, which made it hard to arrange for transportation to the hotel. The hotel finally agreed to pick me up in their hotel van when the time came. I ate my last hospital meals in a more analytical mood than I had for the rest of the time I had been there. I was glad that I had mostly leaned towards fruits, soups, and breads because their hardier fare left a bit to be desired.
I took a couple more walks with Roulette and even walked outside a couple of times. The fresh air smelled so good to me. Roulette and I tried to find our way to the area where the hospital abuts the river, but we discovered that you can't get out there since it's where the helicopter pad is. Roulette did find the chapel, though, and stopped for some prayer. Not being religious myself, I spent the time looking through the little pamphlets they had about the spiritual significance of various surgeries.
As the day passed, I packed my bags, trying not to forget anything (which of course, was a lost cause...I always forget at least one thing. In this case it was my flossing tool). As time passed into the late afternoon, I was getting very antsy, so the nurses finally called Dr. Schrang to see when he would be arriving. The answer was that he was busy at the moment but would be there soon.
He eventually arrived about 6pm. The packing in my vagina and the bandaging on my clitoris were removed (I already had a pretty good idea about that :-) ). He showed me how to dilate and he asked me to show him I could do it. Had I known what was to come, I would have asked him at that point for a little more information about the care and feeding of the clitoris. Eventually, I had to call him long distance for that information.
After he left, I dressed and went next door and said goodbye to Roulette and Rhonda, called for the van and was told it would be there in about 30 minutes, and gave the dried flower arrangement I had gotten to the nurses to give to anyone else who they thought could use some cheering up.
I also gave the nurses a little good luck charm I had been given on my first day by someone who was leaving the hospital, to be passed on to the next person there for the surgery. I understand that I was the 8th person to use that particular good luck charm. It had been dangling from my hospital ID bracelet since my first night. I understand that there were two such charms going around...Roulette was wearing the other.
Finally, I was asked to sit in a wheel chair and my baggage and I were taken to the front door, where I had to wait for a few minutes for the van and the short trip to the hotel. This had been my first time in a hospital as a patient for anything and I am glad I was in that hospital. They were really nice people who really cared about their patients.
Once back at the hotel, I should have gone straight to sleep, but I didn't. I had eaten a disgusting cheeseburger at the hospital and wanted to get the taste out of my mouth, so I went to Sassy Sal's and got something better. I also had a ticket for a free complimentary glass of wine in the hotel bar, which I went for...mistake. I was not ready for the noise level of the bar...there were 120 people in there from some convention. I drank the glass of wine fairly quickly (probably too much so) and returned to my room. I had trouble falling asleep, so eventually took a vicodin (it did say it would cause drowsiness and that this affect would be amplified by alcohol), which was another mistake since about 3am I got up and tossed my cookies.
The next morning, I had breakfast at Sassy Sal's (they do have excellent breakfasts there) and took a walk in the park across the street from the hotel. For the first time, I really sat down and thought back on the trek I had made to get to this point. Was I happy? Monumentally so! I was also a bit daunted by the road ahead. I was now free to pursue whatever I wanted. My first order of business when I got home would of course be to try and find employment outside of Arkansas. But now was time for a little vacation...or so I thought. It was time to leave for Indiana and April's place. I walked back to the hotel and had my luggage moved downstairs, where a van picked me up for the trip to Green Bay, the flight to Chicago, a race through O'Hare in a wheelchair, driven by a small man from India (to get from gate B22 to gate E1 in 15 minutes), and the flight to Indianapolis, where April and Clay were waiting for me. It felt good to be home at last :)
I spent three wonderful weeks in Indiana recovering at April's house. April will probably disagree because of all the stuff she was going through with the house...a flood or two, construction people who didn't come when they were supposed to, a huge pile of dirt in the front yard... . But it was wonderful to me, to have someone nearby who cared. If I had come straight home from Wisconsin, I probably would have gone stir crazy and possibly have gotten very depressed.
I did have a time of concern when some necrosis of the clitoris set in, but after a couple of days, I was assured that everything was "normal." Some of the clitoris that Schrang makes is going to die...that's just the way it is. He makes them larger than standard to begin with for that reason.
Now I've had 5 and a half weeks to get my head together about everything I have gone through. It feels good to be me...and no one can take this away from me. That was a big concern all the way through transition...someone, somewhere could interfere and keep me from having surgery. Having had it, I now feel much more confident about myself. Sure, there are still going to be assholes in this world, but that's generally their problem.
The big question now is: "Where do I go from here?" As I said, the first priority is to get relocated to a university where the administrators, faculty, and staff actually appreciate my work. I haven't had a problem with the students. But not having a raise in two years, simply because I had a problem that needed to be dealt with, is not my idea of being appreciated. There isn't a chance that I would ever become a full professor here. So it's time for me to move on. I can only hope that someone somewhere is willing to give me a chance.
In the meantime I have another surgery coming up, probably spring break or next summer. At least at present, my clitoris is too large and exposed to leave like that, so I plan on having the labioplasty, where the top of the vagina is closed, providing protection for the clitoris, and the inner labia are formed. It's only $2700 and it's "day surgery."
I am really looking forward to the end of October, when my financial condition should brighten considerably. Being constantly strapped for cash has been a drain on my energy for the first and second portions of my life. I don't plan on that ever being a concern in the third (knock on wood).
I have a book that needs writing. The writings I have been doing so far have been pieces of that work. It's getting to be time to put them together and polish them.
I have friends to visit and lots of hugs to give. My first step in that direction will be around xmastime, when I visit the bay area prior to the math conferences (second week of January).
And of course, I have to finish healing. I'm not sure when exactly that will happen. I sort of picture it as the time when I can get up in the morning and get dressed without even noticing my vagina. Right now, it is always present in my thoughts, either because of the pain of nerves coming back online (other post‑ops will know what I say when I mention the feeling of someone sticking hot wires into me) or because of the tightness of the scar tissue (which I try to ameliorate with vitamin E oil and aloe gel) or even, on those rare days when none of that is a problem, the feeling of presence of the former organ, located in different places, but still with the memory of where it used to be.
Time will pass. The last two years have passed. I can look back and see that very little transpired the way I thought it would. I arrived safely to this point on my life's path, but the journey had a lot of twists and turns I hadn't expected. But then again, isn't that the fun of life? The future will bring what the future brings. I plan on enjoying the present, as well as the presents that will come.