Well, 20 years ago I was in the midst of writing an online diary…one of the first efforts at "blogging", if you will.
The diary concerned the last month and a bit before I would be undergoing by sex reassignment surgery (or gender confirmation surgery, as some like to call it).
This was an account of almost 5 weeks of 1994, broken into daily posts. I gathered them into three to four day groups in 2007. They can be found here:
The next 2.5 days, as recounted here, are about my journey to Neenah, WI for surgery. The rest of it is about my recovery from that surgery, both in Neenah and Bloomington, IN. That will be published on Thursday, which will be, in a sense, my 20th birthday.
Most of the people referred to here were introduced in the links above.
One thing I didn't have available to add in those days was music. That is now available.
My Wisconsin Adventure
August 7, 1994
I flew out of Little Rock, headed for Chicago and then Appleton, on Sunday, August 7, very early indeed. My friend, Steve B, took me to the airport, his daughter Sarah asleep in the back seat. He has been a real friend through this whole ordeal. We had no problem getting to the airport, where Steve said goodbye after I got my luggage passed to the curbside checkers. Sarah never woke up. :-)
I was early so I had a small but clearly overpriced breakfast at the airport before boarding the plane. "I am finally on my way," I thought, as the plane began taxiing.
Plane flying has changed a lot in the past couple of years, so I got no food on any leg of the flight, just a cup of coffee and a glass of juice. My stomach was filled with butterflies and I wished I could have something to munch on to calm them.
Arriving in Appleton, I found that Tracey and Alicyn were not there yet, so I sat for a bit and did a lot of pacing for about 30‑45 minutes. Finally I saw someone walking up to me with a sheepish grin which I surmised must be Alicyn (I had seen a gif of her, but had pictured her to be much taller). We wrestled my bags out to Tracey's car and loaded it pretty much full (I know it is recommended that one travel light to Neenah, but that's sort of impossible if one is going to be away from "home" for a month). We drove to Neenah and got Alicyn and me checked into the hotel and my bags in the room, then drove back toward Appleton in search of a good restaurant since by this time I was famished. We succeeded in finding a typically universal "family style" restaurant and had a good dinner.
Tracey had to be heading back to Madison, so she took Alicyn and me back to the motel. We walked for a bit around Neenah, locating Dr. Schrang's office and finding that most of the stores in Neenah were closed on Sundays. After several hours of chatting, we turned in for the night. I found that I was quite tired enough to get a good night's sleep.
August 8, 1994
We got up fairly early the next morning (at least I did and I probably made enough noise to awaken Alicyn :) ). We had a pretty good breakfast at Sassy Sal's (two blocks west of the hotel for anyone going there). Sal has a very dykey look to her, though most of the customers were men that looked like they may have worked at the Kimberley-Clark plant or at the foundry that makes the manhole covers.
Around noon, we started lugging my bags across the bridge to the doctor's office. We hadn't gone far when a nice man decided he needed to carry the heaviest one (I'm sure he regretted it later...this bag later was tagged "heavy" at the airport on future flights :-) ). He turned out to be a doctor in an office on the same street as Dr. Schrang's and on the way he told us the easiest way into the hospital and up to the station we wanted from Schrang's office.
We arrived at the doctor's office in time for me to fill out some forms before the receptionist and the nurse went to lunch, and to find out that we had an hour and a half to waste until my appointment. We walked up to one of the stores that had been closed the night before and each bought some juice, while I bought a package of pretzels and cheese, since the receptionist had suggested I eat a light lunch.
Back at the office, I ate several of the pretzel and cheese things, while the office began to fill up. One woman was to turn out to be in the room next to mine in the hospital. At the time, we didn't introduce ourselves since neither of us was sure if the other was there for the same surgery and we didn't want the embarrassment of being mistaken. I later discovered her name was Roulette and she was a Filipina that lived and worked as a fashion designer in Kuwait.
Finally, I was ushered back into Dr. Schrang's office for my first face‑to‑face meeting with him. I had talked to him twice on the phone prior to this and he had given me the impression of being older than he actually is. I discovered quite soon that he is a type A+ personality...he described himself as an obsessive perfectionist. He described everything that was going to happen to me and asked me if I had any questions about the consent form. I had read the consent form carefully and had no qualms about signing it.
I did ask him about the necessity of having a skin graft and he gave me his reasons for using one. I asked him how large the "working material" needed to be to obviate the necessity of the skin graft and he said that if he had 6.5‑7 inches (in erect state), that the skin graft would not be necessary, that the material would stretch to the appropriate place. He then led me into the examining room, where I undressed and he took three pictures of me and had me sign a release allowing him to use the pictures and my case in any future publications he might make and then told me to get on the table with my feet in the stirrups (gee, my first time :-) ). He examined me and pronounced that I would not need the skin graft. I was very happy about that, having heard from some people that the graft site was the most painful part of the operation.
Dressed and back in his office, he told me to go out and give my paperwork to the receptionist, while he wrote me a check for $500 in rebate for not having to have the skin graft. Armed with a package of material prepared for me by the receptionist, it was off to the hospital.
Alicyn and I lugged my baggage over to the hospital and took the elevator to the second floor. There we located station 2C and I checked in (i.e. gave them my information packet). They showed me to room 208 and showed me my bed, and the first thing I heard from the other side of the curtain was two women talking about Stephanie S, who I also know. So I stuck my head around the corner and said "hi," introduced myself and told them that I knew Stephanie. I guess that's sort of a nice way to get acquainted with your roommate.
I managed to put my baggage in the small space provided and got into the hospital gown provided before the nurse, Craig, came to read me my rights....er, ask me my medical history and fill out a personal habits form. That took about 30‑45 minutes...Craig is very talkative and several times we strayed from the task at hand.
After completing the form, Craig brought me my Nu‑litely (also called pondwater by some). This is used to clean out one's insides. It didn't taste as bad as I had been warned...it's just like a lemon‑flavored sports drink. Drinking four liters of it is difficult though, so it took me about 2.5‑3 hours. While I was ingesting this magic elixir, I had a couple of other visitors...Alicyn was still there most of the time, but she was also wandering around meeting other people on the floor (she had a friend from AOL in the next room over) and Jenny and Vivien showed up from Minnesota. That was a bit of a help when the phone rang several times while I was in the bathroom, until we figured out how to arrange the wires so I could talk even in there. Eventually, I reached the end of the Nu-litely and was given the really foul‑tasting stuff...magnesium sulfate, which is meant to finish what the Nu‑litely started. It did, and it really burned on the way out. I was through with this ritual by 7pm, when I complained about being hungry. Craig got very upset when he discovered that no one had brought me dinner, so he went out and scrounged me some chocolate pudding and apple juice. [Note: anyone else going to do this...make sure you demand dinner...I suppose I was in the bathroom when they brought dinner to my roommate]
After Jenny and Viv left, and the place quieted down, Craig came in with a new nurse and began to remove the hair from the surgery site...actually, he let her try until I complained that she was nicking me. Craig finished up and he nicked me, too. [If I had been smart, I would have done this myself the night before] Then Craig painted me yellow with betadyne and gave me a sleeping pill. While we waited for it to take effect, he told me what to expect in the morning. Alicyn stopped by to say goodnight and left for the hostel the hospital runs for visitors ($10 per night, I believe, but you have to check in early, which she had done shortly after I was checked in). Eventually I drifted off to sleep.
I would have liked to have had some time to myself that evening. Having friends there does keep one busy and probably helps if one is nervous, but personally, I would have liked to have had some time to meditate on everything. I was still remarkably calm the entire day...much to the amazement of those around me.
August 9, 1994
I awoke in the morning to be given another pill. It knocked me out rather swiftly, I gather, since I don't recall getting on the gurney for the ride downstairs. I do remember the ride, however, and the elevator ceiling. Once downstairs, I was parked in a waiting area, what they call the "bullpen." There was another woman there, waiting for who knows what kind of surgery...I drifted off again, and didn't regain consciousness until someone was moving my left arm. I was in the operating room and my left arm was being put out sideways and being taped(?) to the support there. An IV hookup was installed and then my right arm was put out to the other side in a similar fashion...my last thought was irreverent, "Now I know how Jesus felt." I didn't even get a chance to count try counting backwards from 100, which I had so been looking forward to. :-)
The surgery had been scheduled for 7:30am and normally takes 4‑7 hours, so I was surprised to awaken back in my room to discover it was shortly past 10:00am. Someone asked me if I thought I would be wanting lunch. I agreed that I would like some and then fell fast asleep.
It was over...it hadn't dawned on me yet, in my semi‑consciousness, other than being so surprised that it had been so fast.