Some of my experiences I have written in my account of my SRS process, and my travel to and from Thailand, might seem trivial.† But the several weeks from the morning I left home to the day I returned to the USA were filled with many new experiences in life, and I had quite a few major new experiences for several days both before and after my actual surgery.
I have been fortunate to be in such good health that in the first 38 years of my life, I have never been under general anesthesia, never spent one night in any hospital, and never needed IVs, oxygen, catheters, or any other tubes in my body.† In addition, I had barely ever ventured outside my home country, the USA.† But in order to correct my body so I could feel comfortable with it, I suddenly needed to travel to the other side of the world, and then endure preparations for surgery, the surgery itself, and weeks of recovery afterwards.† I had to endure many things I have never endured before, and these things did scare me.† Long flights of six to twelve hours each, or the insertion of an IV, might seem trivial to many people.† But I had never had to do any of these things until now, and the multitude of new experiences in such a short period of time, plus my fears associated with these experiences sent me on a roller coaster of emotions as I went through the process.† The fact that I had never needed to do these things before magnified the emotional effects on me now that I did have to endure these things.
One post on a mailing list would not suffice to express all of my feelings as I went through this experience.† I doubt that even my long multi-page account could adequately describe my experience and how I felt about it.
After years of saving funds, getting letters from my doctor and therapist, arranging the time off from work and my neighborhood, I felt eager to finish my physical transition and have my surgery.† But even after I completed my last pre-op workday six days before SRS, I knew there were still more challenges to overcome on my way to Thailand and Dr. Kamolís operating room.
My greatest fear was that in order to have my surgery, I had to travel across the Pacific Ocean and arrive safely in Thailand.† I still feared the extremely slim probability that Dr. Kamol might find a problem while performing his lab tests before surgery, and tell me that I would not be able to have surgery.† I also worried about the certain probabilities of some unpleasant processes such as having an IV and an enema administered.
I was booked on Northwest Airlines for my entire trip to and from Thailand.† During the past six weeks, the airline had suffered from a mechanicís strike, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, and dealt with fuel shortages caused by multiple hurricane landfalls on the Gulf coast.† I worried about whether or not my airline would get me to Thailand on time, or if I would arrive late and have to reschedule my surgery after I arrived.
Out of curiosity, I calculated the exact number of days I had to work in this place ever since my first workday more than two years ago.† I found that since I quit working at the chicken plant and started working here, today was the 555th day that I had reported to work here.† Thatís how many workdays it has taken me to save funds for my SRS.† Shortly before I drove to work today, I cried tears of joy knowing that my long efforts to save and prepare for my surgery were almost finished.
Only two people at work knew that I am about to take six weeks off from work.† The HR clerk who learned from the Social Security Administration about my transition has arranged for my medical leave, and one superintendent in my department knows that I will take six weeks of medical leave, but he doesnít know why.† My other coworkers know that I will take three days of vacation starting tomorrow, and that I will be off for the rest of this week.† I had decided not to even let them know about my long medical leave, because I did not want people asking me so many questions just before I left.† So my coworkers will be surprised next week when they realize that their youngish looking and healthy coworker will be absent for six weeks.
This workday actually ended at 1AM tomorrow morning.† I had two more days to do the things I needed to do in order to pack for my long trip and prepare for my long absence from my neighborhood: shopping, post office to hold my mail, landlord, and the bank for travelers cheques.† I made time for one last walk of six miles on the park trails to stay in condition for my recovery from my imminent surgery.
Because I normally go to bed long after Midnight and sleep until late morning around my work schedule on the second shift, I tried going to bed earlier and setting my alarm earlier to prepare for my necessity of waking up early Friday morning for my 25 hours of flights.† But I was not able to sleep very much those nights, and little did I know that I would not have another good night of sleep for about two weeks.
A post-op friend arrived at my apartment at about 6:20 to drive me to the airport.† She had her surgery with Dr. Preecha four years ago, so she had told me some of her experiences of traveling to Thailand and going through the SRS procedure.† She reassured me a little as she drove me for the first few miles of the longest trip of my life.
I really needed this reassurance, because I had to travel much farther than I had ever traveled in my life so far.† Up until now, I had been outside the United States only twice, and both of those occasions were mere road trips to border towns in Mexico.† Even then, I had traveled with others.† I had to make it to the other side of the world, and I had to get there alone.† I could not remember even my stepfather traveling so far for any business trip.
For now I could only hope that I would find help and friends at the other end of my journey of more than 9000 miles, and that all of this would work out.
I first felt anxious at my local airport when I was told at the security checkpoint that I had been selected for extra screening.† I tried to tell myself that I had been selected because I was traveling internationally and alone, or maybe because I had a temporary one-year passport instead of the usual ten-year one.† But part of my anxiety was over the fact that I was still pre-op.† They did have a female administer the extra screening, which included waving a wand over me and patting some parts of me, but fortunately not the genital area.
The first of my three flights took me to the Northwest hub at Minneapolis.† After I had passed security in my home city, this first flight was uneventful.† As usual, I had chosen window seats for all three of my flights, because I love to look at any scenery as I travel.† As we approached the Minneapolis airport, I saw some autumn foliage.† The leaves back home had not yet started to change color, and I felt sorry that I was going to miss most of the autumn foliage this year.
A friend on the internet worked at the Minneapolis airport at this time, and I hoped that she would be able to find me, but we did not get to meet today.† Hopefully we could work out a meeting on my return trip in several weeks.† But for now I was relieved that my first flight had arrived on schedule, and it appeared that my flight from here to Tokyo would also leave on time.† As I walked through the airport, I did see some strikers from the mechanicís AMA union outside, but they seemed to be having little if any effect on the airlineís operations. †Now I knew that I was definitely going to Asia today.
My anxiety over Northwest airlines faded.† But when I submitted my passport at a checkpoint before waiting at the international gates, and then waited among many Asian travelers, the reality of traveling so far from home began to set in.† Still, I would feel mostly OK until I arrived in Tokyo.
The 747 had a movie screen in front of each section of cabin.† The flight from the USA to Tokyo was long enough for the airline to schedule three movies.† But at first the screen merely displayed our flight path, and statistics such as distance traveled and even the outside temperature.† I was shocked to see that our flight was not going to cross the Pacific in a straight line to Tokyo, but we were going deep into Canada, and then across southern Alaska.† Because of the planetís curvature, the quickest way to fly from here to Tokyo is not necessarily a straight line.† But I could look forward to beautiful scenery, and I hoped it would not be cloudy for very much of our flight.
At first this scenery helped to relieve the anxiety I had over getting farther and farther from home and friends, and I only felt excited that after so long, I was finally on my way to Thailand and SRS.† For a few hours I watched endless Canadian Plains, as we flew to just north of Edmonton and then toward northern British Columbia.† Although it was still the last day of September, the few deciduous trees up here were already bare.† Cloud cover started to increase as we approached the Pacific, but in-between the clouds I could see the northern Rockies, and so many mountains capped with glaciers.† Iíve seen wilderness while flying over the western US before, but this was absolutely raw wilderness.†† Enya sang on my CD player as I watched snow capped mountains, treeless medium size mountains with the first winter snowfall on them, and valleys inside these mountains, some with coniferous trees wherever the climate was mild enough.† There were no roads, and I did not see even one home or cabin in sight.
I have forfeited many vacations to save for transition in the last six years, and I looked forward to being able to travel again.† Although I did not get to see Banff and Jasper Parks on this trip, I am considering taking a week of vacation there in the summer of 2006.† I might also travel somewhere when my workplace shuts down for about ten days this Christmas.
Because we were on a red-eye flight, a stewardess asked those of us in window seats to close the covers.† By now it was mostly cloudy anyway, and I could not see much anymore.† Autumn is the wet season in this part of the world, and it would remain mostly cloudy from here all the way to Japan.
Now my long hair was good for something besides making me look pretty, and occasionally I would hold my hair around me to block the light whenever I occasionally sneaked a peak through my window.† Usually I saw nothing but clouds.† Several times I saw tall white mountains towering above the clouds.† I donít know if any of those mountains were Mt. McKinley or Mt. Logan.† Much later in the flight, the skies had cleared for a short while.† Again, I saw pure wilderness without any trace of man, and this time there were no trees either.† I was looking down at a river winding through the tundra of western Alaska.
When the cloud cover broke again, I saw many chunks of ice in the ocean.† I thought I was supposed to be on my way to the deep tropics, so why was I flying over lands of coniferous forests, snow capped mountains, tundra, and icebergs?† Where was I really going?† I seemed to spend hours flying over chilly climates on my way to my muggy destination.† As we traveled westward at high latitudes, we kept up with the movement of sunlight across the earthís surface.† I carried a watch with me, which I kept on my local time back at home.† When my watch read 12:00 AM, my midnight sun still shined afternoon sunlight on the clouds above the icy ocean.† The sun would not set until after we had arrived in Tokyo.
The woman sitting next to me occasionally asked me what I saw outside.† She and her husband were on their way to visit family and friends in Beijing, China.† I didnít tell her the exact reason for my own long journey, but only told her that I was going to Bangkok for tourism and that I hoped to meet another friend from the internet while I was there.
After more than 12 hours in the air, we arrived at Tokyo around 5:30 PM Japanese time.† Our plane needed to descend through a layer of overcast.† Once we were under the clouds, I could see waves lapping on the Tokyo shores.† The land had turned green again.† When our plane had reached a lower altitude, I could see the city and its traffic.† For the first time in my life, I saw vehicles driving on the left side of the road.† Outside the city, I could see a dormant volcano in the distance (I am not sure if this was Mount Fuji).
Once we were on the ground, I had to find my way to my next flight in Narita airport.† Now I started to feel more anxiety from being so far from home and in a strange place where I didnít know anybody.† If I made one error, or one wrong turn here, I could miss my connection and be lost in a strange city far from either home or Bangkok.† Others had tried to assure me that I would find plenty of signs and instructions in English, and that I would not have to go through customs here because I was merely on my way elsewhere.† Inside the airport, I was told to follow the overhead green signs (the yellow signs were to direct those whose final destination was Tokyo or another Japanese city).† But I was afraid to hurry for fear that I might make a wrong turn and get lost.† I was not fast enough for everyone.† Some of the Asian passengers crowded me and bumped me as they passed by me, and I remembered hearing about the crowding in the subways.
I did find a list of continuing flights, and located my flight to Bangkok.† The departure time had been moved forward by 20 minutes.† Then we had to pass through a security checkpoint.† I feared having another incident of extra screening as a pre-op in a foreign country.† But they did not select either me or anyone else for increased screening, and I only took several minutes to wait in line and then go through the checkpoint.† The process was similar to that in the USA before 911.† My flight was already beginning to board passengers when I arrived at the gate.
Now I was on a flight from one foreign city to another foreign city.† My anxiety of being far from home continued to build.† What would happen when I got to Bangkok?† Would I find Jaruwan and then find my way to the hotel and my surgery?† Or would I miss Jaruwan, get lost, and miss my surgery?
My last flight was only half as long as the one I just finished across the Pacific, but it was still six hours long.† We were on an Airbus A330, which had individual TV screens for each passenger, and a choice of 25 or so movies.† But by now I felt too anxious to either sleep or watch movies.
I was tired and afraid.† This time a gentleman sat next to me, and I again had the discussion where he told me where he was going and I told him I was going to Bangkok for Tourism.† He was on his way to another business trip to Pattaya.† Because he had been to Thailand before, I asked him about the process through customs at the airport.† But he told me that because he traveled light, he would pass through quickly, and he predicted that he would make the road trip to Pattaya and still arrive at his hotel before I made it to mine in Bangkok.† I did not feel reassured.
I was able to sleep for a few minutes after the meal, and when I woke up, I saw my disembarkation form hanging on the seat in front of me.† Somehow this doubled the anxiety I was already feeling.† This aircraft also displayed our flight path on its movie screens, and I looked to see how much farther we had to go.† We were veering to the west of our planned flight path, maybe because typhoon Longwang was about to hit Taiwan.† Or maybe the air currents here were simply more favorable for our flight.† Ohmigod, we were entering mainland China close to Shanghai.† I never knew that China would permit a western aircraft such as ours to fly in their airspace.
We were flying over a Communist county, and I thought of Tiananmen Square.† Something about China seemed to really scare me, even though I could not see it.† Now my anxiety of being so far from home overwhelmed me, and I started having crying spells, which would continue all the way to Thailand.† The gentleman sitting next to me did not notice.† It seemed dark over southeastern China.† I had expected the worldís most populated country to appear much brighter than this.† Maybe it was mostly cloudy, because there was lightning from a distant thunderstorm.† But whenever I could see between the clouds, I saw only a few isolated lights.
I finally saw many lights as we left China near the outskirts of Hong Kong, but getting out of that scary place did not relieve my anxiety.† I was more afraid of losing my SRS than I was of going through my first major surgery of my life.† Would I find anything or anyone after I arrived in Bangkok?† Was there really an SRS clinic and a hotel reservation waiting for me at the end of this long flight over a large dark continent?† There would be no relief for my anxiety until I found Jaruwan at the airport.
Somehow, I managed to fill out my disembarkation form, and hoped for the best.† We entered Indochina near the middle of Vietnamís coast.† A string of lights outlined the coastline so clearly that a child could have drawn the coastline by connecting the dots.† There were more dots of light offshore, which I believe were fishing boats.† But immediately behind this coastline and its string of lights was total darkness.† Wasnít I supposed to be going to a large city in a populated country?† I saw almost no more lights until we were actually in the Bangkok area and approaching the airport.
Our flight had actually arrived a little early despite the slightly meandering flight path.† It was almost midnight Siamese time, and almost noon back home.† Except for a few brief periods of sleep lasting only a few minutes, I had been awake for 30 hours, and I was still several hours away from my hotel room.† I needed reassurance and relief from anxiety, and this meant I needed to get through this strange airport and find Jaruwan.
I hoped I could find my way through this airport as easily as I had in Tokyo.† At first all of the passengers seemed to practically stay together as we walked through the corridors of the airport.† Then we entered a large room, and everyone suddenly split up and walked in many different directions.† What direction was I supposed to walk in?† In this room I saw many lines through many stations, but I had no idea which one I was supposed to wait in.
One of my worst fears seemed to come true now: I was thousands of miles from home, and lost.† I felt like just sitting there and having a good cry.† I looked for someone to ask for help, but I could not find anyone who could speak English.† Finally, I walked over to a Thai attendant, and told him Ďlostí and Ďvisaí.† He went to talk with another attendant, and then directed me to a station where almost nobody else was waiting.† The shorter waiting time was not worth the anxiety that I might be in the wrong line.† Could this really be the right line if nobody else was waiting here?
But the Thai attendant had directed me to the right place after all.† I received my visa stamp that allowed me to visit Thailand until October 30th.†† The person who gave me my visa also gave me directions to my baggage claim area.† Now the airport seemed more helpful, and they also let passengers use baggage carts for free here (most if not all US airports charge money for this).† Then I tried to find where I needed to go through customs, but someone informed me that as a tourist, I would not need to declare anything, and had already cleared immigration, so I merely need to follow the exit signs.
I soon found the area where I was supposed to meet Jaruwan.† I saw a number of people holding up signs with names on them, but none of the signs had Sherry on them.† Even though I had lost some time for being lost, I had still arrived a little early, so I thought I would wait for a little while.† One bilingual woman noticed that I seemed lost again, and tried to help me find my contact.† She directed me to a desk where I could give my name and ask if Jaruwan had already arrived.
While I was waiting at this desk, a slightly familiar Thai woman outside looked through the window and tried to communicate with me.† I say slightly familiar, because the person who would share the hotel room with me and have her surgery the day after mine had relayed some pictures from another Kamol patient, including one picture of Jaruwan.† I waited a couple of minutes for her to come inside and then walk through the crowd toward me.† She asked me if I were Sherry Joanne?† Hours and hours of anxiety suddenly melted away, for I had found Jaruwan!† I now had a newfound confidence that all of this was going to work out.
Jaruwan has reassured me many times in E-Mail over the past eight months when answering many of my concerns which I had about my surgery.† Now I found that she was very reassuring in person too.† I would look forward to seeing her almost every day while I was in Thailand, whether I was in the hospital, or dilating at the clinic.
We did have to wait another hour at the airport, because Jaruwan had brought another member of Kamolís staff to meet a patient from China, and her flight arrived later than mine.† I had many questions about my surgery and my process, and lots of time to ask Jaruwan about my concerns.† She told me that most Thai women were shy around foreigners, and soon she commented that I too was a shy as a Thai woman.† Jaruwan took me to a currency exchange window so I could obtain some Bhat for food and other necessities before the banks opened Monday morning.
Then Jaruwan went to drive her van to the curb, and the other three of us waited just outside the airport.† The Chinese woman was one of the shyest people I had ever met, and neither of us said anything to the other tonight.† My first view of Bangkok was of lines of taxis (after 1AM!) waiting for passengers, strong diesel odors in muggy air, an overhead expressway just outside the airport, and lightning from a distant thunderstorm.† I was in a very unfamiliar city.† But I felt like I would be OK here, because now I was among friends again.
I had an appointment for my consultation with Dr. Kamol at 10AM this morning.† But because I arrived at the hotel around 2AM, and I had just completed a long flight, Jaruwan told me she would try to reset my consultation in the afternoon so I could rest and still have time to eat breakfast at the hotel.
Although I felt so tired, I only slept for six hours.† The breakfast buffet was available only until 10AM, so I needed to wake up for that.† Jaruwan did succeed in moving my consultation to Noon.
Dr. Kamolís clinic is located very close to the hotel.† A healthy person who has not had recent surgery could walk there in two or three minutes.† I had to let Jaruwan pick me up and drive me over there because I was still so unfamiliar with this neighborhood.† Dr. Kamol performs the minor procedures (such as eyelid surgeries) at the clinic itself, and only does the serious surgeries such as SRS and FFS at Piyavate Hospital.† The staff keeps the entire clinic in pristine condition.† Even the first floor offices and computer area is spotless.† The second floor is even more pristine.† We remove our shoes on the second floor and leave them just outside the elevator and wear sandals provided by the clinic, even in the waiting room.
After a while, Dr. Kamol called me into his reception room.† He looked over the therapist letter and the lab tests which I had E-Mailed him months ago.† Everything seemed OK.
But when Dr. Kamol led me to an examination room to determine what he could do with my unwanted male parts, the news was not so good.† He almost immediately commented on the scrotal skin shrinkage since my orchiectomy six years ago.† Nothing else was very large either.† After he took measurements of my remaining male parts, we returned to his little office.
I told Dr. Kamol that I was more concerned about appearance than I was of depth and function.† Dr. Kamol told me that he could provide me with a desirable appearance, including a hooded clitoris, but only three inches of depth.† The only possible way I could have satisfactory depth and function was if I allowed him to take a skin graft from below my tummy.
Jaruwan advised me, ĎItís up to you.í† The additional $1000 that this would cost hardly bothered me at all.† I had been required to work increased hours during the hot summer, and now I had more than enough money in the bank to cover this surprise expense.† For me the real price was not the money I would pay, but the Cesarean like scar line I would always have on my tummy.† Dr. Kamol also told me that this would lengthen my surgery to 6.5 hours.
I had promised myself that I would not have this extra skin graft if my surgeon could provide a mere four inches of depth.† But he could not provide even four inches, and now I had to decide if I was going to sustain a visible scar in exchange for invisible depth.† Uncertain that I could be content with three inches, and fearing that I might someday need a much more invasive sigmoid colon transplant, I told Dr. Kamol to go ahead and use the skin graft.
NOTE: Even though my orchiectomy probably resulted in scrotal skin shrinkage and the necessity of a skin graft from my tummy, I still do not regret my orchiectomy.† The benefits I have experienced over the last six years have been too great to reconsider.† If I had to go back in time seven years and relive my transition, I would again seek my orchiectomy first thing.† Besides, there were other factors contributing to my lack of building material.† Without those other factors, I might have not needed the graft despite my orchiectomy, or perhaps I would have needed the graft even without the orchiectomy.† Keep in mind that many transitioners experience shrinkage of male parts from merely HRT and androgen blockers, so I probably would have lost building material anyway during my long transition.
After my consultation, I used the computer to let my friends closer to home know that I was clear for surgery, and that I had arrived safely in Bangkok despite my anxieties.
Twas the night before surgery, when all through my mind,
only one doubt was stirring, which had me in a bind.
I was having doubts about my decision to add the skin graft from my tummy.
Why did I just decide to permit a scar on the outside of my body where anyone could see to create extra depth inside of me where nobody could see?
I had no doubts concerning my imminent SRS as far as the penile inversion and scrotal graft.†
Before and after transition, on and off HRT, I hated the male parts I had, and there was no question that I would much prefer to have female parts.† I felt the same way about this as I had felt about my orchiectomy in 1999:† if I went through with this, I would feel relieved, and I should soon recover.† But I would not feel comfortable until I went through SRS.
I did worry over the months about whether my trachea shave procedure would adversely affect my voice.† Dr. Kamol seemed reassuring when he told me he would limit his work to my slightly protruding cartilage, and that this would not change my voice at all.† My Adamís apple was really so tiny, many TSs had told me it was not easily noticeable, and it certainly was not affecting my being stealth back home.† But I was very self-conscious about it, and wanted that tiny bump gone.† Then a TS told me that her voice was affected during her FFS by Dr. O, and she did not have a trachea shave, but the anesthesia and the tube in her throat had caused this.† I thought that if I was risking my voice even without the trachea shave, then I might as well have it done.
But I could not be certain about my decision to have the skin graft from my tummy, and pay the price of a permanent scar for extra depth.† Perhaps worst of all, there was no way to escape this dilemma.† If I had decided to not have this extra skin graft, I would now have serious doubts about my decision to settle for a shallow vagina and not accept the graft.† I could tell Dr. Kamol tomorrow that I changed my mind about the extra skin graft, but that would merely replace my doubts with different doubts.† If I went ahead with this graft, I might regret my choice to forever have a horizontal scar on my tummy.† If I changed my mind and did not have the graft, I might regret having a shallow vagina.† Either decision would be permanent.† Damned if I do, damned if I donít.
My instincts seemed to be telling me to go along with this extra graft, and I would just have to trust them.
Town In Town Hotel has several options for eating.† The same restaurant which serves breakfast also serves lunch and dinner, a counter serves sandwiches and cake in daytime hours, and Pizza Town offers Italian dishes.† Tonight I chose to eat a simple pizza from Pizza Town.† Here the tomatoes are sliced and placed on top of the pizza, similar to pepperoni slices.
I spent my last night before surgery preparing for my coming ordeal and six days of bed confinement.† I took a long shower, epilated my legs, and repacked my suitcases and purse so I could access those things, which I would need during my bed confinement.† While I prepared for my surgery, the lights flickered again and again, and then the power failed for a short while.† I felt thankful toward a post-op friend in Texas who had sent me a packing list including several items that I would be relieved I had, but I would not have brought if she had not advised me to.† One of those things was a flashlight.† After our power came back on, a thunderstorm passed over us.
I would soon meet Sherry Marlene, who had chosen the same first name as I, had chosen the same surgeon, and then set her surgery for the day after mine.† I worried that she might arrive late, because I had watched for typhoons that might affect my flights yesterday.† Typhoon Longwang had stayed far away from my connection in Tokyo, but this storm was on top of Taiwan where Sherry Marlene had to connect flights.† I hoped they could immediately divert both her route and connection to Manila, Hong Kong, or anywhere else where the weather was calm so she could join me, and we could support each other as we each made our final journey of transition.
Tuesday, October 3rd, 2005
My hotel room phone rang and woke me up just after 2AM.†† Jaruwan was calling me from the lobby to inform me that Sherry Marlene had arrived, and both of them were in the lobby.† It only took another minute for both of them to arrive. I realized that it was now October 3rd, and the day of my SRS had arrived!
Sherry Marlene was very tired.† I was pleasantly surprised that she had arrived in Bangkok on time despite Typhoon Longwang being on top of her connection in Taiwan.† Then I was shocked because Sherry Marlene told me that her flight was neither diverted nor canceled.† China Air had decided to land in the storm.† The landing had been very rough, and when the wheels had first touched the runway, the plane tilted to the side, and some passengers had screamed.† Sherry Marlene had seen more thunderstorms as her plane approached the Bangkok airport.† We were both relieved that she had arrived here safely, and both of us were having our surgeries on schedule.
Sherry Marlene needed to rest, so we did not talk much when she first arrived.† I went back to bed, but I got almost no sleep for the rest of the night.† I still had some ordeals ahead of me, such as the IV, enema, and six days of bed confinement, but my excitement was building.
Tuesday, October 3rd, 2005
Morning and Afternoon
Sherry Marlene and I went down for breakfast just after 7AM, because my surgery was scheduled for 4PM, and I would not be permitted to eat or drink anything after 8AM.† When I finished breakfast, I commented Ďlast mealí, and Sherry Marlene admonished me to not say that.† OK, so this was my last pre-op meal.
Jaruwan picked me up at 9:20 so I could begin taking care of the financial aspects of my surgery.† First we went to the Bank of Asia so I could deposit my travelerís checks in Dr. Kamolís account.† I did not have extra cash or cheques for the skin graft, so I went to the clinic and allowed Dr. Kamol to take the additional $1000 from my debit card.† Good thing I had brought my debit card with me.† Meanwhile, Sherry Marlene had her consultation, and felt very relieved because she would not need the skin graft.† I had a little time to use the computer, and sent one E-Mail before it was time for me to prepare for hospital admission.
We returned to the hotel so I could pick up my luggage.† We have to check out of the hotel for the duration of our hospital confinement, so I would have to keep almost everything in my hospital room.
Then we were on our way to the hospital, and Sherry Marlene was coming with me to see me in.† In Bangkok distances are measured in how many minutes or hours it takes to travel from one place to the next.† Piyavate Hospital was only a few miles from our hotel, but we had to wait in lunch hour traffic for a little while.† Finally, I saw the 26 story white building where my body was going to be corrected, and I would be cured of being TS.† I arrived at Piyavate Hospital at Noon, only four hours until my SRS.
I needed to fill out a few forms at the admission desk.† Sherry Marlene asked Jaruwan a question, which I could not hear.† When I asked her what she had asked Jaruwan, she told me that she would let me know after our surgeries.† There are some things I am better off not knowing.
On the other side of the first floor, I changed into my hospital gown.† The nurses weighed me, took my temperature and blood pressure, took a chest X-Ray, and performed an EKG test.† These were relatively uneventful processes, compared to the next several processes I would have to endure before I made it to the operating room.
Now I felt afraid again, because I had to endure my first little trial of my procedure.† The nurses had to place an IV on my left hand.† I have never had an IV anytime in my memory, and I feared this.† Their first attempt failed.† They told me that my veins were small, and whenever the nurses tried to reach a vein, it would move to the side.† The needle was extracted, and I was told that they would have to try again.† By now I was feeling a little faint, and if I had been standing up, I would have felt like blacking out.† Jaruwan dipped a large Q-tip in ammonia and waved it like a wand in front of my face to make me feel better.† Somehow the nurses were able to connect my IV to a vein on their second attempt.
My ordeal with the IV finished, they wheeled me up to the tenth floor and room 1006.† I was allowed to set up my CD player, and place my CDs, hairbrush, books, papers, and everything else I would want within reach of my bed.† It was now past 1PM, and my surgery less than three hours away.
Jaruwan asked about my hair, and told me that the hospital would remove any wigs or anything else that was not our own growing hair.† Oh no!† But Sherry Marlene explained that my hair system was glued on, and that it could not be removed.† They would permit me to keep my hair on after all, and I was relieved once more.† After all, wasnít it unpleasant enough that we could not take our hormones near the time of our surgery?
I chatted with Sherry Marlene and Jaruwan until 2PM.† Two women from the finance department arrived to place my cash, cheques, and passport in the hospital safe.† Then Jaruwan needed to return to the clinic, and Sherry had to take her ride back to the hotel.
I was alone, with two more hours to go, and I had two more ordeals to go before surgery.† But after making it through the insertion of my IV, I somehow didnít feel quite as nervous about my next two ordeals.
One nurse came to draw blood for my pre-operative lab tests.† I hope no discrepancies turn up on that blood test.† Oh, I should try to relax, because surgeries are so rarely canceled over lab results, and I was a healthy girl.† A short while later, two nurses came to administer the first of those two ordeals: a very thorough shaving of the genital area.† My second ordeal, the enema, was even worse.† Then they instructed me to go to the bathroom and then take a shower.† I feared my nurses would administer another enema, but I was fortunate that I only received one.
It was past 3PM, and less than an hour until surgery.† I went to the bathroom one last time.† OK, this will be the last time I am allowed to walk to the bathroom for six days.† Somehow this thought did not provoke any anxieties.† In less than one hour from now, I would go under general anesthesia for the very first time in my life, and then I would be cut open.† That thought didnít make me feel afraid either.† What was happening to my feelings?† My emotions were taking a sudden and unexpected turn.† I thought I was supposed to feel nervous about my surgery itself.† But even with my surgery so close now, all of my fears seemed to fade.
I did not have to wait in my room much longer.† At 3:45 PM, several nurses arrived with a gurney for me to ride down to the operating room.† The nurses shared my excitement.† The waiting area outside the elevators was not air conditioned, and we had to wait for a few minutes there, so a nurse started waving a fan at me.† I was going to be very well cared for.† Soon, we rode down to the third floor, and the nurses wheeled me into the operating room where they placed me on the operating table.
Very soon I would go through my first major surgery of my lifetime.† I used to think that being in this room would scare me.† But now that I was here, where my body would soon be cut open, I felt surprisingly calm.† Even my doubts about the extra skin graft were fading.† What had happened to all of my fears?
Maybe I had been so anxious about so many things, and had been through so much in the last several days, that I was tired of having anxiety and could not have any more.† I must have left my fears in China.† Or maybe it was the realization that I had cleared all hurdles, and there would be no more ordeals to go through before my surgery.† I had been afraid that something would prevent me from arriving here for surgery, but now nothing could prevent me from having surgery anymore.† I knew I had much recovery to go through after this surgery, but somehow this did not give me any anxiety either.
Maybe I had no fear now because I knew this was what I needed to do for my own comfort, and I knew I was going through this in spite of any risks.† I could not have caused myself to feel afraid even if I had wanted to.† I went through so much anxiety before my surgery, and I knew that those six days of bed confinement and even more ordeals awaited me during my recovery, but for this moment I felt calm.† Instead of the nine-year-old girl who is terrified because they are about to take her tonsils out, I was the grown woman who could not wait for them to put me under and remove that terrible defect between my legs.
This was the easy part, just go to sleep and let my consciousness time warp to the hour when my surgery was finished, and feel nothing in the meantime.† I had arrived in the calm eye of the storm.† I went through so much recently, and had so much more to go through, but for now I felt like I had nothing to worry about.
Several nurses prepared the room for my surgery.† Someone gently wrapped a cap around my hair.† An anesthesiologist introduced himself to me.† Just after 4PM, he told me he was putting anesthetic in my IV, and that I would soon feel sleepy.† His word Ďsooní turned out to be an understatement.† In only a few seconds, I started to feel very drowsyÖÖ