17

System Shock

escaping

(Me and fellow patient Leah – who very kindly lent me the wheelchair, making an impromptu dash for sunlight and fresh air at Charing Cross Hospital, a week post-surgery)


Some of you already know that I was, at long last (although the three years I have been waiting is by no means considered an unusually long duration for this), recently admitted to hospital for my gender confirmation surgery, hence why I have been less than active online of late. I am now feeling strong enough to post upon this subject, though it has certainly taken its toll on me (I have never had any form of surgery before, nor spent any significant time in hospital, and the system shock has been quite extreme).

First of all, I would like to thank and praise the staff at Charing Cross Hospital (Riverside Ward especially) for their care and devotion over that week, especially since I fear I was not the easiest of patients (being a vegan and a massive worrier). My deepest thanks also to the surgeon (Mr. Roland Morley) and his team of specialists (especially Martina and Manjit) for having helped me finally cross this threshold and become as fully myself as I can be. Also, love and thanks to my ward-mates Lisa and Leah for their sweetness and empathy during this often harrowing time.

It was scary, I don’t deny, and very humbling. Having various tubes inserted in me within minutes of arrival, being put under general anaesthetic, being uncomfortably trussed up in compression bandages, not being able to shower for days, not even being able to go to the toilet without signalling for assistance, catheters, drains, drugs, blood, fainting fits, sleeplessness … etc. Darling hubby Cal and my dear friend Helena (who took the above picture) were there to keep me company when they could, but it is certainly not an experience I would choose to repeat for anything less (so we can forget all about breast enhancement, facial feminisation, etc. I can be content with the rest of myself, and there are less painful ways to compensate if I feel the need). Even now, the after-care is far from over. I will spare the graphic details, suffice it to say the healing is a long process and I can expect to be low on stamina for months ahead, even assuming no complications (Signs are OK so far, but I won’t say no to any good vibes, prayers, or healing spells anyone wishes to send).

I have been stuck in the flat for days now, which is certainly frustrating for me (I rarely spend a whole day indoors). I cannot exercise, nor attend my dance classes, nor model. Still, it is not a decision I regret, and I know all of that will come in time. I am sleeping well again, eating food I like, spending more time out of bed, and finally feeling up to a bit of blogging. Nevertheless, I still have to take regular painkillers, be very careful not to exert myself, and spend an inordinate amount of time on my back (If nothing else, I have at least caught up on my reading). The test of endurance is far from over, and as for the peculiar idea – beloved of the gender-critical school – that people would do this sort of thing for fun, I have no words to express my incredulity.

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11

Acceleration.

Last week, not expecting to hear anything so early, I received a letter from Charing Cross Hospital with the details of my first outpatient appointment with them on the 20th of February. Annoyingly, that is the day of a dance class, so I stand a fair chance of missing it (and even if I don’t, I will likely be so stiff and knackered after three hours on the National Express that gracefulness will be an even more alien concept than usual).

Excitingly, though, this seems to bear out what I have heard before; that once one is through the Gender Identity Clinic and into the hospital, meeting the surgeons, things start to move a lot more quickly. 2018 could finally be the year I draw a line under this and reach that point that seemed so impossible three years ago … and three years is not an unusually long wait in this field, alas. The hubby, unfortunately, still has another GIC appointment to go later this year, but expects to be referred for surgery at that point, so hopefully he will find it the same … and hopefully our operations won’t synchronise so perfectly that both of us will be convalescing at the same time, as it would be jolly useful for each of us that other was fit and healthy during our recovery period. Still, I’ve known people get through this completely alone, so we consider ourselves very lucky to have each other as support.

It is a bit ironic, in the very year that I have taken up dancing again (and am obsessively enjoying it) that I may end up having to take a huge hiatus from physical activity. Still, I knew that was a risk, and I do fear I have often put things back “until after surgery” without having any clear idea of how long that would mean putting my life on hold. Life is too short to be put on hold, whatever our long-term hopes may be. At worst, I may have to resign myself to losing a few of the classes I paid for, but I’ll still be able to come back to it in good time … not to mention with a happier relationship with the body that will, after all, have to do all of this dancing. Better that it feels as appreciated as possible …

7

The magic S word …

It is testimony to how long the process of transition on the NHS is that I have posted nothing on trans matters for months now, even though that is ostensibly the whole purpose of this blog: certainly the reason I was encouraged to begin it, though I was afraid it would make a very stop-start narrative with massive gaps from the beginning.

While such has been the case, both the hubby and I have been lucky in not having faced much in the way of unexpected delays, with every appointment at the GIC entailing meaningful progress (Not all are so fortunate). Yesterday I had my third and final appointment at the GIC, after which I was discharged and referred to the surgical team at Charing Cross Hospital, from whom I shall hopefully be hearing in the near future.

Excited? Most definitely. Apprehensive? Somewhat. This will be my first major surgery, and the extended convalescence (about ten weeks) afterwards will present its own challenges, but finally knowing the end is in sight is tremendously fulfilling, and of course I can turn for support to the many people I now know who have taken this route successfully (and with the same surgical team). I also know I will not be impeded from getting the sick leave I need.

Here I am with two wonderful friends – Helena and Amanda – standing outside the hospital which I shall be visiting more formally in due course.

newcovCHX

And thank you to everyone here who has encouraged me through this surreal but ultimately positive story. Hopefully its closing chapters should come at a slightly faster rate from now on …