The Recovery Process: Week 1

The Recovery Process: Week 1

Hello world! I am back and still very much alive. It’s been three weeks since undergoing reassignment surgery and I figured it was about time I jumped back in front of a keyboard to let you know what it was like. I also want to take the time to sit down and write a post about all of my pre-surgery feelings and some general surgery feelings but that is not this post. This post is about what happened immediately after surgery.

Actually, let’s start with the night before. I stopped eating at 6pm and took some gross medicine that made me spend the next six hours emptying my bowels completely. I spent most of the night on the toilet. At midnight, I stopped drinking water and tried to get a little sleep.

I woke up at around 4:30am to get to the hospital by 6am. They showed me to my room, I got changed into a hospital gown and then they wheeled me to the surgery room by 8am. Then they stuck a thing in my hand and I fell asleep. Pretty standard stuff.

Waking up was, let’s say, unpleasant. If you’ve been under anaesthetic before, you know. It’s very disorienting, and you don’t wake all the way up straight away. I spent a couple of hours drifting in and out of awareness, feeling nauseous and confused. When I finally did wake up properly, it was later in the afternoon, and I felt okay. Weak and tired, but okay. I had an IV in my hand, an air tube thing in my nose, a catheter in my bladder and a plastic tube sticking out my groin collecting blood. I could barely move my lower half, and mostly it was all numb.

That night, all they’d let me have was broth. I couldn’t sit up. They came in to measure my vitals every hour for the first night. All I could do was lie on my back, and listen to music. I was on so many painkillers, I just sort of drifted in and out of consciousness.

The next few days were pretty much the same. Sleeping at night was hard, because they had to wake me up every four hours for tests and to administer antibiotics and painkillers, and because I was still stuck lying on my back. Slowly, I was allowed to sit up just a little more, but never past a 45 degree angle, and even that was pushing it. I tried to read, but my eyes wouldn’t focus, and my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders. So I just listened to a whole lot of music, and napped a bunch. I had a few blood tests, but I’ve had so many of those at this point I barely noticed.

Oh yeah, and I was on a special diet so that I wouldn’t need to poop.

I was able to set up my laptop on a table and watch some videos, but even that was difficult, my eyes and brain still apparently in minimal function mode. But it was another way to pass the time.

After a week, they took the dressings off. They pulled out my blood tube, leaving a hole that still hasn’t fully healed, and they pulled out the catheter, which, funny story, got caught and wouldn’t come out. That was a horrible experience. But it did feel good to be unplugged, though I did still have the IV.

This is the point where I started learning to use the mould. Oh, the mould. Here’s how it works. In order to keep the vagina from collapsing, you take two strips of foam, roll them up and roll a condom over them. Squeeze out the air, twist it up, lather it with lube, and squeeze it into your freshly-operated-on vagina. It’s uncomfortable and extremely weird at first. Once it’s all the way in, you can let go and let the air get back in so it expands and ostensibly stays in place. Let me just tell you, that fucker does not stay in place. It’ll squeeze its way out at any given opportunity, and pushing it back in once it’s expanded is a lot harder and more uncomfortable. If it manages to get all the way out, you have to throw away the condom and do the whole thing again. You also have to do the whole thing again every time you take it out, which is every time you ‘void your bowels’ (poop) or shower. At least I was allowed to eat a normal diet again.

Also, in order to get the mould in, you need to use a mirror so you can see what you’re doing. Which means I got my first glimpse at the surgery site and… well, I’m glad somebody warned me before I saw it. It was, in a word, horrifying. The entire area was bloated and red, with massive stitches down either side, and all through the middle, and weird gunk just sort of hanging out. It was genuinely disgusting, and it I hadn’t known to expect it, I would have been incredibly upset. As it was, I avoided looking at it or thinking about it as much as possible.

Another thing I was warned about was the post-surgery crash. It’s a very invasive surgery that does very nasty things to your body. Not good for emotional wellbeing. Anaesthetic, also not good for emotional wellbeing. I’d stopped taking hormones a month before surgery (a safety precaution to decrease the risk of blood clots) so my testosterone levels were higher than they’d been for a while before surgery, and then BAM, sudden drop. Not good for emotional wellbeing. Also I was stuck lying in bed in a dark room in a strange place with only a few hours to see friendly faces a day. Not good for emotional wellbeing.

Mostly I kept in good spirits. I kept people updated on facebook and twitter and got a whole lot of love and support in return. People came to visit me, even though I was very boring and half conscious, and it always brightened my day. The nurses were all very friendly.

One night, I crashed. I couldn’t get the mould to stay in, and I couldn’t sleep, and I just started sobbing. I tried to keep it quiet, and just spend the better part of an hour crying. I was tired and uncomfortable and most of all, I was lonely. It was 1am and there was nobody I could talk to. I was thinking about what it was going to be like going home. When I booked the surgery, I was in a happy, committed, long term relationship. By the time I got to the hospital, I wasn’t. And even though I had the most amazing support network of friends and family, I felt like I was going through it all alone. I didn’t have that one hand to hold, that one voice always there telling me I was going to be okay. I felt abandoned and I was scared, with nobody to comfort me.

Thankfully, that only lasted that night. There were no feelings of regret, no feelings of disappointment, and when I woke up again, I was more or less back to normal.

I spent the next few days slowly getting accustomed to being able to walk again, very slowly and shakily. By the time they released me, one week and two days after going under, I was mostly able to walk, so long as I had something to hold on to, and wasn’t going very far.

And that was the hospital segment of my recovery. Not as exciting as you might think. The next part is a little more interesting, so stick around for that. Also, I am happy to answer any questions you might have.

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