Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Journey Home

All good things come to an end and last Thursday, October 2nd was my time to leave Montreal and fly home.  I was just 8 days post op so this trip would be as much an ordeal as a journey, but I was ready to return and hunker down for the long recovery at home.  They took great care of me at L'Asclepiade, as you will soon find out, so I was prepared to go home but far from being "all healed up."
With Mitchell and Mama in front of the recovery house, L'Asclepiade, as we waited on the limo..
The limousine arrived to take us to the airport and the driver, Mr. Robert Clerk, ushered me inside.  On my arm is my "donut", which makes sitting after "bottom surgery" tolerable and some neck cushions for the flight.
Closing the door on my surgical journey and leaving L'Asclepiade for the long journey home.
My roommate throughout my stay at Dr. Brassard's facility, Samantha, had to leave at 5:30 AM for her flight back to Edmonton.  Neither of us slept much that last night and I'd asked her to wake me up before she left so that I could say goodbye and begin getting ready.  As I mentioned in my last blog (written on my final day at L'Asclepiade) the limo was scheduled to pick me up at 9:50 to take us to the airport for our 12:55 PM flight out of Montreal.

Besides doing my self care routine, taking a shower and eating breakfast, I'd planned on putting on makeup (for the first time since coming to the hospital) and dressing nicely for my flight home.  I was ready by 9 and was blessed by one last visit from Evonne, who was such a wonderful big sister to me while I was there and is continuing that relationship now.  Mitchell and Mama soon showed up and it was time to get going.

We almost had too much luggage to fit into the limousine's trunk.  I don't think Mr. Clerk had seen that much luggage before from any one party, but we did try to pack light, I promise you.  Luckily we managed to fit everything into the car and we were off for MontrĂ©al–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

Our mountain of luggage, sans kitchen sink.
We'd requested wheelchair assistance for me at all three of the airports on this day's journey.  I could walk, but the wheelchair was a welcome respite from having to hobble through the vast terminals.  On this day I believe that being in a wheelchair brought one added surprise and a touch of adventure. 

As we made our way through the Canadian equivalent of the TSA checkpoint, I was blessed to receive the infamous "patdown."  We took our shoes off, put our purses and carry on luggage on the conveyor belt and prepared to walk through the scanners.  A man asked me if I could walk and I said yes but a woman came up and wheeled me around the scanner and asked if there was anywhere on me sensitive except (and she pointed to my groin area).

I said no, and she proceeded to feel my body all over (except my "sensitive area") with the back of her hands, all the while smiling and reassuring me.  I wasn't nervous at all and did not feel violated, although conceptually I don't like searches like this.  I knew everything would be ok and I sensed that she knew why I was in a wheelchair.  I know for a fact that this airport sees quite a few women each week in my condition, leaving Montreal after having visited Dr. Brassard.  Surely she has done this before.

After my patdown, I watched as another lady searched through my carry on bag.  I was certain she would come to the little pouch containing my dilators and spread them out on the counter, or hold them up and examine them.  I have heard numerous stories from other trans women of this happening.  As it turns out she never took the dilators out of their container, but I did have to forfeit three bottles of hair products that were above the volume limits.  Mitchell apologized to me for packing these in the wrong suitcase, but alas only a few dollars worth of products were lost.

Get out of my way!  I am an American citizen and I'm in a wheelchair!!
(not long after my "patdown", in Montreal's airport)...
Once we'd gotten through security and made it to our gate we had some time to kill, as we were there early and our flight was delayed.  The first leg of the trip would take us to LaGuardia Airport in New York, where we would change planes for a second flight to Raleigh-Durham.  We used the time to relax, grab some lunch and people watch in the expansive, clean and sort of busy airport.  I was in constant discomfort that day, caused by having to wear panty liners that irritated my surgical area, and having to be so active for so long just 8 days from what I am told is a major operation.

In my wheelchair, my baby by my side.
In my wheelchair, my trusty ice bag by my side....
We got on the plane after seemingly waiting forever and it was a relief to finally get going.  I'd been dressed for almost 5 hours and was already ready to get home, get my nightgown on and lay down.  This is how we spent most of our time at the recovery house.  Unfortunately, we still had many hours ahead of us before I could get home but on this clear day I enjoyed the scenery on the ~1.5 hour flight between Montreal and New York City.

Relaxing on the plane with my baby
Taking off, my last view of Montreal...
  Happy to be in the air, finally!!
The American Airlines Terminal at New York's LaGuardia Airport is dirty, crowded and seems small compared to Montreal's Trudeau or our home airport, Raleigh-Durham International.  At least we didn't have far to travel between gates after we got off the plane to wait for the connector flight home.  Also, because we'd gone through security and customs in Montreal, we did not have to go through all that again when we arrived in the states.

All of the airplanes we flew in on this trip are small by industry standards and the seating is sort of cramped.  This didn't make things any easier on this uncomfortable travel day, but since we spent more time in airports than airplanes it wasn't such a big deal.  One comment about this day that I will make (hoping it's not TMI) is that I finally got to make good use of the tampon/pad disposal boxes in ladies restroom stalls.  I had to change pads each time I used the restroom.

The flight to Raleigh-Durham was higher altitude than any other leg of this trip up or back.  We flew above the clouds and from my window seat I looked out onto what appeared to be a landscape of fluffy, white snow.  Something about the altitude seemed to make me swell up and caused more discomfort down below, which was already swollen from surgery.  Needless to say, I was very glad when the plane touched down on North Carolina soil.  Perhaps my mother was even more happy to be on home turf, as this long trip had her homesick and yearning for her own bed.

Flying high, above the clouds.  My adventurous soul loves to soak in whatever sights are out my window..
It was after 6 PM when we left the plane at RDU.  At this airport they didn't have a wheelchair ready for me but we tracked one down and Mama pushed me towards the luggage return as Mitchell dealt with our carry ons.  Seeing an elderly woman pushing a seemingly disabled woman in her chair, one of the airport employees stopped us and offered assistance.  This nice man smiled the entire time as he whisked us to pick up our luggage and take us outside to meet the shuttle to airport parking.  After having initially dropped the ball, RDU customer service came through big at a time when we were all getting worn out.

Soon we made it back to our car, stopped by a drive through for some food on the go and kept driving all the way back to Rocky Mount.  There was one aftercare item I didn't have at home, saline solution for my douches, so we stopped at a drug store as we came into Rocky Mount.  I made it into the store but had to plop down on a chair as Mitchell got help to find our item.  I was tired, sore and dizzy from the long day.  I've never been so glad to get comfortable and lay down as I was that night, when we arrived home at almost 10 PM, but unfortunately I had to stay up a couple more hours working on my important aftercare regimen (that I will explain in detail later).
Being wheeled around the vast America Airlines Terminal at RDU International.  A nice touch to end a long, hard day of travel.
What an amazing adventure this had been!  Our 12 hour voyage home from Montreal was an ordeal culminating a phenomenal two weeks in this fascinating foreign city.  We'd had a few days to explore the city and then I checked into a hospital to put the finishing touches on a life changing (and life saving) transition that had once been just a dream to me. 

To say that I came home a changed woman is the understatement to end all understatements.  The same person came back home, just a little different and a lot more complete.  Even through all the pain, I had a smile on my face almost the whole time I was in Canada.  A peace had fallen over me there. 

I want to spend some time reflecting on my stay in Montreal as I recuperate here at home, and one day I want to return to that wonderful city to reflect on the remarkable change that occurred there.  For now I will just rest and take comfort in the fact that all went well, and that this was the most productive trip I will ever take.  Who said that mixing business with pleasure isn't a good idea?

Sophisticated limousine selfie,
in the morning as we headed to the airport.

It was all business in Montreal...

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