Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Some Good Times and a Setback, 5 Weeks Post Op Update


In my last post and 3 week post op update, I told y'all how much better I was feeling and that recovery seemed to make a big improvement between days 18 and 20.  I also mentioned that I had company coming later in the week and I was looking forward to some long awaited good times. Well, the good times rolled and I did indeed get out of the house that Thursday for an afternoon and evening on the town in Raleigh.  More friends came to town Friday evening for a nice dinner here in Rocky Mount, and Mitchell came in later than night to spend the weekend with me.  Yes I had a really good time that week, but unfortunately I overdid it and am still paying the price.




Lisa and Teri actually came to spend the night with me Thursday and we had our hair appointments for that afternoon booked before I went to Canada.  I'd planned on going if I felt good enough and rescheduling if I didn't.  Mitchell warned me not to overdo it but I felt like getting out, and going to the salon to get my hair done sounded like a nice treat after the medical ordeal in Montreal.  It's also hard to turn down a chance to spend some time with good friends, so when Lisa and Teri arrived we had a little lunch then hit the road for the hour ride to Raleigh.

This day involved a lot of sitting for me and you may recall me saying that sitting isn't exactly my strong point right now.  I brought my Kabootie seat and took my medication (including pain meds) so I did stay fairly comfortable on the ride up and in the salon.  While my hair color was processing I walked over to the other side of the salon and visited Lisa and Teri who were working with a different stylist.  Getting up and walking around helped but I was already spending more time seated than I needed to. 

After we left the salon we headed to downtown Raleigh to meet a couple more friends and have a nice Mexican dinner complete with my current favorite condiment, margaritas.  My friends Charlotte and Carla had both been to Montreal for GRS with Dr. Brassard, so it was good to catch up with them and compare notes now that I'd also had the experience.

Lisa, me and Teri after getting our hair "did".
Steaming Mexican camarones.
The food and drinks were good and I was really enjoying the company, but while we sat at the table I began to get very uncomfortable and started hurting. When I went to the restroom I saw bright red blood and thought, oh no what has happened.  Except for some low level stinging pain, I actually wasn't feeling that bad and had taken some more medicine so when my friends wanted to check out another bar I tagged along.

I was really enjoying talking to everyone, and getting on my feet and walking provided quite a reprieve from the pressure and pain of the prolonged sitting. We ended up having a couple of drinks at a big bar/restaurant I'd never been to, then 4 of us went to yet another bar for a nightcap.  It wasn't late by any means, about 10 pm, and I had an awesome chocolate martini that served as dessert.  I'd forgotten all about any pain or discomfort by this point and decided to call it a night mainly because I had one more dilation and sitz bath to do when I got home.  It had been a fabulous night!
      

Lisa, Teri, me, Charlotte and Carla after dinner.
Having a little pre Halloween fun.
Having our last drink of the evening.
Yes I had fun on my night out, maybe too much fun.







   











The morning after our big night in Raleigh, Lisa and I walked Buddy and Nightingale around the City Lake.  I'm still not walking both dogs because of Night's propensity to pull on the leash, especially if she sees a squirrel or another dog.  So when I get someone to help me I walk Buddy and let my friend walk Nightingale.  The dogs aren't getting walked as much right now but I believe I will be able to walk them both again pretty soon.
         


Back in form, walking Buddy around the lake.



















Lisa and Teri drove back to Raleigh after our walk.  Neither of them had been to the State Fair and they had a beautiful day to check out all the rides and exhibits at that fabulous annual event.  I really wanted to go but I had my grueling dilation schedule to attend to, and I was beginning to feel more irritation in my surgery area after the big night out.

They came back to Rocky Mount after their Fair day and we met up with local friend Christy, Stephanie (who made the 2 hour drive from New Bern) and Carla (who came down from the Raleigh area).  We had another good crowd for a nice Mexican dinner and a couple of margaritas, right in my neighborhood.

Friday night's dinner.
Mitchell didn't make it down from Virginia in time for dinner, but he did come down Friday night to spend the weekend with me.  He actually had to drive back to Danville, Virginia for work Saturday and stopped over in Raleigh on his way back to look at cars.  He didn't make it home until midnight Saturday night but he had good news.  He'd found a car he liked, and he bought it!
 

After another night of cuddling with my baby, we picked Mama up and the three of us rode to Raleigh on Sunday to pick up Mitchell's fantastic new car. It's actually a 2012 Dodge with low milage but it is a "muscle car" and with Mitchell being a true car guy, this was the perfect ride for him.  I even had to ask him if he was going through a midlife crisis, buying something like this.  :)
My baby and his new ride.


The trip to Raleigh and back Sunday was grueling for me.  Unlike Thursday, I was in a lot of pain sitting in the car for the one hour rides up and back.  My general pain level had also risen and the constant burning sensation had gotten worse.  I began to be concerned that maybe I'd damaged something. Thursday night, when the pain set in while sitting at the restaurant and I'd noticed all the blood when I went to the restroom, is when things started going downhill. Maybe all the sitting on such a sensitive area at such a sensitive time wasn't such a good idea after all.

After that weekend I took some new pictures of my surgery area and sent them to Dr. Brassard's nurses.  They confirmed that there was a concern, as the pictures showed that redness and irritation had gotten worse between days 22 and 26.  The nurse advised me to see a local doctor for a "wound assessment" and that I might have a condition known as granulation. This is something that is fairly common after GRS but treatable.  It's also a condition that women sometimes get during childbirth.

It will be this coming Monday before I make it to the doctor to get this assessment and a general post op check up.  The doctor I'm seeing has experience with transgender surgery and is actually training to perform GRS herself, so I am hoping she will be able to help me.  Things have gotten a little better since this problem first arose but it has not gone away.  It may or may not have come from me overdoing it but at least I will be able to get checked out and receive whatever kind of treatment I need.

I have to admit that I've been a little down since suffering this setback.  I missed posting an update last week because at that time I just didn't feel like writing about things getting worse, especially if my over activity had something to do with it.  In the last few days I've started feeling better mentally and physically, and I've again realized that this is a long, tough recovery.  There are going to be ups and downs.


Dilation has gotten easier and I am on the verge of being able to cut back from 4 dilations a day to 3.  I've really been taking it easy since that big weekend, spending more time laying around and almost all my time at home.  In fact I am lying on the couch now typing this update on my laptop.

Mitchell is coming in tomorrow night to spend the night with me.  Friday morning we will walk the dogs around the lake, have lunch and then he will go spend the weekend with his kids, for Halloween.  I can't wait until I can spend time with his kids but we are riding it out until after his custody hearing.  That whole situation is a story unto itself that I will have to tell you one day.  We are beginning to get impatient with things, but the courts move slowly down here so...


Sunday night Mitchell will come back to sleep over before heading back to Virginia Monday morning.  Monday is also my day to see my new doctor so I'm looking forward to my check up and hopefully getting some resolution to my condition.

I've been lucky so far to not have any major complications with this major surgery.  If I may be so blunt, sex change is a tough operation and recovering from it is every bit as tough as I'd expected.  I can't say I've experienced any post op depression but the past week or so has been as rough mentally as it is was physically, more so really.

When things are progressively, if slowly, getting better and then there is a setback it can throw your whole mood down in the dumps.  Thank goodness I've been able to pull myself out of it and if my report is not tragic when I go to the doctor Monday, I will be back on top of the world again.  I will say that some feelings are coming back, some good ones, and this is lifting my mood even more.


It's been 5 weeks now since my surgery.  One feeling I've had since then is a sensation of the blade, of being cut.  That feeling is subsiding finally and I'm beginning to physically feel more like my new vagina is part of me and not just something that has been sewed on.  It's hard to explain but it's like my body is assimilating it's new part, in spite of any setback or minor damage I may have experienced.

Mentally it's been great since day one but physically its like the pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place.  It's a big puzzle and it's going to take a long time, but the signs are there that it's starting come together.

Late night selfie on my big night out.  I will be getting back out soon, so look for me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

GRS: 3 Weeks Post Op

I'm three weeks post op today and a lot of people are asking how I am doing so thought I would post an update.              
Out and about again
Dilating is becoming more routine now, less painful and a little easier.  It's still time consuming and the larger one is sort of difficult to work with, especially in the first of 4 daily dilations.  I'm not really getting any blood now while dilating, which is nice, but the lubricant still makes a mess.  I can really see the need for the sitz baths or shower afterward.

Last Friday I went out for my first meal since coming home, had my first cocktails and it was Mitchell and I's anniversary.  This Monday (2 days ago), I drove my car out for the first time.  I probably did too much that day as I had a little bleeding later from irritation, but it wasn't bad and it is nice to slowly ease into normal activities again.
          

Out for a nice anniversary meal with my baby.
I am actually sitting up right now typing this and am not on any pain medication except Tylenol.  I have to partially credit my Kabooti cushion for making this chair comfortable enough to sit in but just a few days ago this would have been much more uncomfortable.  I'm still spending a lot of time lying down but I can see that changing now even though I have to watch out and take it easy.
Sitting is possible with my Kabooti cushion...thanks Mama!
A turning point seems to have occurred between day 18 and 20.  I had my first email correspondence with Dr. Brassard's head nurse and sent in some pictures of my healing progress.  She confirmed that nothing looked infected and in fact I don't have any signs or symptoms of infection.  All the sutures seem to be healing normally but have not completely closed so it is too early to being treating them with vitamin E ointment or the like.  Getting this feedback, feeling better and having things look a little better seem to have bolstered my confidence and mood.

Overall pain is much better.  This weekend it sort of got to me so I did aquire and take more pain medication but I don't seem to need it right now.  I'm taking Tylenol, as recommended by the nurses, and ibuprofen for swelling.  A burning feeling along with what's best described as discomfort is more evident than real pain.   Even these feelings are better each day and the steady improvement makes dealing with this discomfort tolerable.

Tomorrow I have some friends coming in to stay overnight and plans to go out of town for the day.  (Stay tuned to see what happens).  The next day they're going to the State Fair but I do think that's too much for me right now so as much as I'd like to, I am going to take a pass on that.  Mitchell will come in Friday to stay the weekend and this will be our first chance to cuddle since the night before I left for the hospital.  To say I'm looking forward to the next few days would be an understatement.

I'm still amazed at what has transpired over the last three weeks.  Even though things are getting back to normal now, the "new normal" it seems, stepping into this new level of womanhood seems so natural.  Friends have told me to wait, about 6 months after the surgery, as that is when the real "new normal" will sink in.  I am hopeful that I'm getting over the worst of it but maybe by that time life will be more about living and less about recovering.

Some have asked me if it is worth it to have the surgery.  I gotta tell ya, and if you've read my other posts, of course I do feel it is worth it.  Like I've mentioned, you really have to want it and be prepared for a long, tough recovery but I am sure in the end it's really worth it.  To me it already is.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Post Op Reflections at 15 Days

It's hard to believe that just a couple of weeks ago I visited the stunning Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal.  I was moved by the beauty, enormity and significance of the most fabulous chapel I'd ever laid eyes on.  In addition to it's visual marvel, the spirit within that place was something I could feel deeply within my soul.  That day I said a prayer for change and, lo and behold, 2 days later I lay in a hospital bed on the other side of Montreal recovering from what I am told is life changing surgery. 

While there was an abrupt change to one part of my body, other changes have been subtle so far.  The surgery knocked me off my feet for a couple of days, and I'm still spending more time in bed than out of it as I regain my strength and abilities to sit and walk.  Overall pain is down but the daily aftercare schedule, extremely intense in the first month of recovery, is both time consuming and painful.

I think I may be feeling a bit different inside now.  When I see you across the room I will hobble over to hug you, and the love that I feel for you is the same.  How I feel about myself is a little bit different, though hard to describe.  This surgery of less than two hours in duration was physically successful but I think it may have been significant in other ways as well.  Could it have brought about a change in my spirit as well as my body?

*****

Physically, I have a long way to go with recovery, no doubt about it.  Besides getting my general strength back, the actual surgical area has a lot of healing left to do.  I'm very sore all the time.  I still have swelling, burning sensations and get stinging pains that come and go.  Some of that, I am told, are nerves reconnecting.  That's a good thing for sure, but many of the sensations are just those of the body healing itself after a severe trauma.

Blood is becoming a less frequent visitor and most of it now is very light colored and watery, possibly mixed with other bodily fluids as it slowly makes its exit from deeper parts of the affected area.  The affected area itself is still quite sensitive, making walking and sitting very uncomfortable if something has to come in contact with it.

My daily aftercare schedule consists of dilating 4 times a day, one shower, 2 "sitz" baths and 2 douches.  Dilating consists of inserting phallic shaped plastic dilators into my vagina, pushing them to maximum depth and holding them for a set period of time.  The actual dilating time is a total of 25 minutes 4 times a day but it can easily take twice that long with cleaning, preparation and insertion time.  In such a swollen, sensitive area this doesn't happen quickly.
The dilators.  Currently I am using the blue and the green.  Next month I "graduate" to a regimen to include the orange.
Sitz baths are simply short baths in slightly soapy water.   This is supposed to help break up blood clots that formed after surgery, and in fact I am mostly clear of them now.  It also helps clean the area and I enjoy them because they remove the excess lubricant, blood etc. from dilating.  Douching is pretty straightforward and is done in the morning shower and the last sitz bath of the evening. 

At first, douching was sort of an adventure.  Back at the recovery house, my roommate Samantha took her shower first on the day of our initial douche.  She told me that I could leave the door open when I did it in case I needed to talk to her for moral support.  OMG what was I getting into, I thought?  In fact, that first time did bring gobs of thick bloody substances that ran down my leg and fell into the tub.  Not for the faint of heart, this initial douche was sort of a rite of passage.  Now it's mostly just the clear, saline solution from the douche that comes out but it might contain a hint of blood or the lube from dilating.  Or perhaps something else?

Eventually douching will be something I do only occasionally.  When I got home, there was one oops moment, when I realized I had inserted the douche into "the wrong hole."  Luckily I had another douche available, as I threw that one away to avoid contamination.  Everything we do now has to be super sanitary.  I have hand sanitizers all over the house and am extra careful not to touch the surgical area unless I have sanitized.  So far I have avoided infection and over time the risk will continue to decrease.

Urinating can still be sort of an adventure.  Depending on swelling and how badly I have to go, it can sort of spray in different directions and make a bit of a mess.  The nurses told us that some of this is normal for women, but at this point in recovery urination isn't completely normal.  I do understand why women require more toilet paper than men when going "number 1" although I am sure mine will become more regular over time.  We are told at 60 days it should become more regular and if a problem persists after 6 months we can contact the surgeon.  I've had a few occasions, now becoming more often, where urination was sort of straightforward so I think that is closer to what I can expect eventually.

I started my hormone regimen back last Friday but I am easing into it.  Having been off for about 23 days and with my body still reeling from this major surgery, I want to take it easy for awhile.  I restarted at 1/4 of my pre op dose and yesterday, 2 weeks from surgery, increased it to 1/2.  At the end of the month I'll increase it some more and soon after will get a blood test to see where my levels are now. 

There has been major change to my endocrine system, namely my body will now only produce a fraction of the testosterone it once did.  Needless to say I don't need testosterone blockers anymore and will have to figure out the correct estrogen dosage.  I'm not anywhere close to being ready to be post menopausal yet, as I still feel I have a good ways to go with "teenage" puberty, so I will continue with an "aggressive" hormone therapy for some time to come.


*****

So, how have I changed inside since my little visit with the French-Canadian doctors?  And has my spirit been changed by this life changing event?

These are questions that are going to have to be answered over time, and it will  probably take a long time to really figure that out.  All I can do now is give you a few examples of how my feelings have been affected in these last couple of weeks.

While I was still in the hospital, nurses would come in periodically to check the bandages around my surgical area.  Several times a day they would change gauze etc. to keep the area as clear of blood and as dry as possible.  Remember, during this time my genitals were covered in a sewn in bandage to protect everything for a few days.

As they would pull the sheets back to make their check, something inside me flinched.  It was a gut reaction to having someone look at me "down there" and the initial feeling I got was embarrassment.  Then I would remember having the surgery and I would be a little more at ease with having them pull the sheets back and check on me.  I knew they had good intentions and I realized that I was different than I had been just hours before, so I was more at ease with having them look.  It is hard to describe, but this is the feeling I had every time they pulled the sheets back.

Looking back, as the days to my surgery drew nearer I seemed to have more and more problems with such mundane tasks as "tucking".  What had been so easy to do for so long, almost instinctive, was to tuck everything away after visiting the bathroom or when getting dressed, so it wouldn't be seen in my pants.  I'd do the same thing to a lesser degree if wearing a skirt or dress.  As the time of surgery drew nearer, especially the first few days I was in Montreal, it seemed like I just cou
ldn't get it right.  I'd spend an extra few minutes in the bathroom trying to tuck satisfactorily.  This compounded the feeling I'd always had in public ladies rooms that someone would see me doing this in the stall and expose me.  I'm not sure why this got more difficult right at the end.
 
One feeling that had been always with me was not wanting to take my clothes off around other people.  I'd worked through this, over time, with a very few people I was intimate with, but I could never completely escape a body modesty rooted in shame.  As a kid, when we got old enough to take showers in gym class or the YMCA, I quickly realized this was something I couldn't do and would go to great lengths to avoid.  For example, I remember once going to a university for a week for a journalism seminar and staying in a dorm that had the large, "open" showers for men.

I still don't understand why men are forced to shower openly in rooms like that, instead of using private stalls.  Even now, to me this seems like a brutal practice.  The handful of times I had to take showers in situations like that or fully change in men's locker rooms were traumatic to me.  I would always avoid those situations but that week at the university I got up at 4 AM to take my showers just to avoid any possibility of showering with someone else.  Anyone that knows me realizes that this was a big deal because I am far from an early morning person. 

My fears of these types of showers kept me away from certain activities as I grew older, like athletics or joining the military.  When I went to college I made sure I stayed at one of the few dorms where the men's showers at least had dividers with curtains. That dorm was also one of the few at the time that had air conditioning so there were other perks to staying there.

At L'Asclepiade, the recovery house adjacent to the hospital, there wasn't much privacy.  There was a private bathroom that Samantha and I shared, but much of the time in the rooms were spent in some state of undress and of course the nurses would come by and inspect our genitals during their rounds.

I don't think my modesty has completely left me, but the feelings I had having to be so exposed were completely different than those I've experienced previously in my life.  My roommate would often lie in her bed completely naked and I did that some but I would usually have a gown on, although to "air out," dilate etc. it was usually hiked up so that everything "down there" was exposed.  I would not have been in that situation if I hadn't just had surgery but I would have freaked out having to be so exposed if it were not for this surgery.  Could this aspect of my physical dsyphoria be gone now?  Only time will tell but obviously the feelings I have about parts of myself have been changed.  As messed up as it is at this point, I am more comfortable with my body now.

Some have said they see more of a sparkle in my eyes in pictures I've taken since my surgery.  I really don't see that but maybe it was from pain meds, I don't know.  Through the pain and constant discomfort I have been able to smile at least.  And it is a smile that comes from deep inside.  I do feel a little more peaceful. 

I hope everything heals up and turns out okay because at this point I really don't have many good feelings coming from my surgical area, although the pain is decreasing.  This is all considered normal and I just have to wait it out, which is ok. 

This surgery is a radical procedure and it certainly isn't something you do for short term gain, that is for sure.  I've had a few moments of worry that everything will not heal correctly, but I just have to trust in the experts who handled my surgery. 

Many report experiencing a post op depression when they get home.  I've been on the lookout for it but haven't really had any of those feelings.  Most that experience this depression are not sure what causes it and it is something they have to work through but I am hopeful this is something I can avoid. 

In the darkness, at night and alone, there can almost come a feeling that one has been injured and will never heal.  I did feel it coming on a couple of times and it cost me sleep but didn't send me into depression or reaching for the anxiety medication.  I'd gotten some of that medicine from my doctor before traveling north just in case I got anxious at any point.  I will do what I have to to make it through this tough time but so far I haven't had to resort to medication.  I can see how this long, brutal recovery process can wear on a soul but I feel my soul was prepared for this long before I packed for Montreal.

*****


Sitting in the Notre Dame Basilica, looking up at the fantastic images before me that depict a spirit more ancient than the religion that inspired the building of that chapel (indeed more ancient than life itself I believe) I asked that my body be prepared for this change.  I asked that my spirit be ready for what lay before me.  The answer I got was one that I already knew inside. I'd been ready for this my whole life.



Hey from back home, on a beautiful October day.

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...



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

GRS: One Week Post Op


Today marks one week since I had my GRS surgery here in Montreal.  When I left off in my last post I had just arrived here at L'asciepiade, the recovery house right next door to the hospital.  A lot has happened in these last 5 days of recovery and I will have to catch you up on the all the details in upcoming posts.  Things move at a seemingly fast past here, as the staff moves us through the recovery process and gets us ready to go home.  I will be leaving L'asciepiade tomorrow at 9:50 AM for our 12:55 PM flight for Raleigh/Durham.  Actual arrival at my house should be 9-10PM tomorrow night.


The biggest events here at L'asciepiade were removal of the sewn in bandaging around my vagina, removal of the "mold" or stent which was placed in my vagina during surgery to hold it open for a few days during the initial healing of the wound, and removal of the catheter which was used to drain my bladder.

Sunday was he day the gauge bandage was removed from my vagina.  This was first of three removals and each brought a new level of relief.  With the gauze bandaging coming off, Sunday was the first day that I got to see my vagina.  Seeing myself there for the first time brought a smile and a nice sense of relief.  Even though it was still a fresh surgery sight, it didn't look as bad as I expected it might, and to me it is truly beautiful.  Because I'd been having phantom itching and feelings under the gauze, there was also a relief that the surgery had indeed brought big changes.

The stent was removed Monday, which brought Great relief.  That was also the day of my first dilation.  When my stent was first removed there was bleeding and the nurse had to quickly insert the number 3 dilator for a few minutes to stop the flow of fresh blood.  This was a bit of a scary moment, as she told me that if the first attempt to stop bleeding with the dilator didn't work she would try one more time, then I would have to return to the hospital if it continued.  I've gotten through surgery and the first week of recovery with no complications, but this was sort of a close call.

Yesterday the catheter came out, which also brought great relief and gave me the first opportunity to urinate with my new vagina.  With all the swelling and being so soon after surgery, urination is far different than it will be or what most people are used to.  The function now is more like a sprinkler head and it is a little messy to say the least. 

The nurse wants to measure the first urination, so we are given a bowl that fits within the toilet to collect urine.  If the first urination is not 200cc, they begin giving you medication to make you urinate more easily and if the function does not soon return, the catheter can be reinserted.  She also told me if there was too much blood clotting around the catheter I'd have to leave it in for a week and have it removed back home.  Neither of these were positive scenarios, so I was more than relieved to get the catheter out and produce more than 200cc urine.  We also had to track all liquids consumed and all urination amounts throughout the day yesterday. 


Having gotten all of the "foreign equipment" off of and out of my body over the last few days, I am beginning to feel somewhat normal.  There is still swelling, blood clots (more like scabs of old blood from the surgery) and fresh sutures to deal with but at least I am now all me, albeit with a Lot of healing left to go. 

Blood has been a constant presence.  I am not really crazy about blood, or the sight of my own blood.  My red nemesis is everywhere all the time and it's something I have just had to deal with and get used to.  As of today, there seems to be a slightly less bloody situation, but only one week from such a major surgery and rapidly returning to somewhat normal activity, I am going to be dealing with some degree of blood for a good while longer.  At least most of the blood is "old blood" or blood from the surgery that is coming back out and not new fresh, red blood.  Lots of fresh blood is a problem that could result in me going to an emergency room or a doctor when I get back home.
 
*****

I really look forward to writing about All the details of this experience when I get back home.  It's been an ordeal to say the least, and I have stayed busy with self care tasks most of the time.  Each day has brought enough relief and progress to keep the overall mood pleasant.  In fact i find myself smiling a lot of the time, with many giddy moments, especially now that the pain level is down and my body is free of foreign objects. 

My spirits have been high the entire time, buoyed by the excitement of finally starting this new part of my life.  I'm finally getting a chance to be myself, fully, and I've never felt better about anything in my life...



Visting with Mama here yesterday at L'asciepiade.  She's very ready to go home and now I feel I am too.  I look forward to telling you All about this journey in Montreal and the one I am now embarking on, the rest of my life...:)