My Sex Reassignment Surgery: A Biber Girl, Class of '93, Tells All by Jessy X
WESTON, COLORADO, late August, 1993: High above the Purgatoire River, overlooking the old Santa Fe Trail, the smell of the sage and pine in the thin mountain air is everywhere. And Black-Eyed Susans dot the hillsides and roadsides, a reminder of my Maryland home. My hostess Connie tells me that when not's not cloudy, like today, a million stars light the heavens above. We are indeed far from the light pollution of the cities back east, far from urban civilization. And I am here, ten miles west of Trinidad, along the mountain road called the Scenic Highway of Legends, up against a high canyon wall, nearing my own summit. I have come very far for this moment in my lifetime.
Saturday, August 28: Lynn, my dear big sister from the old Janus TS Support group, has driven down from her home in Fort Collins five hours to the north meet me at 5:30 p.m. at the Colorado Springs airport. My hostess, Connie, and Michelle, the daughter of Connie's lover Laurie, are there too. They have brought Dian, a beautiful asian post-op TS who came back for her labiaplasty, up for her flight back to Vancouver. We form a two car caravan and head south on I-25, Lynn in her blue Camaro and Connie and Michelle in Connie's Isuzu Trooper. The mountain range to the west contains Cheyenne Mountain, home of NORAD and the Air Force's Space Command, and further up north, towards Denver, Pike's Peak. The Coloradans call Colorado Springs simply "the Springs" and pronounce Pueblo "Pee-eblo". We stop in Pee-eblo for dinner at Red Lobster, and I think ironically that this is a long way to come for seafood. We head back south, our way lit by electrical storms to the southeast. After another hour we reach Trinidad late Saturday night and pull off the interstate onto an exit. Trinidad's Mt. San Rafael Hospital is famous (or notorious) for the sex change surgeries performed here. Dr. Stanley Biber, my surgeon, has done over three thousand sex changes. My first impressions of the town are sleepy, quiet, dead, quaint, western-miningrustic. This is the Sex Reassignment Surgery capital of the world?
Sunday, August 29: Following a long, rambling discussion over breakfast, Lynn and I take off to explore and sightsee. This minivacation is Lynn's first return to Trinidad since her surgery five years ago. Heading east down Highway 12 on our way into town, we stop and take pictures, with Fisher's Peak, a 10,000+ foot mountain looming in the distance. We pass the Trinidad Lake Recreation Area, pay the $3 entry fee, and take more pictures with breathtaking vistas. Back on the road into town, I pop in our Cherrys tape, smiling at sweet irony of Dave's song "Do You Love Your Body?". As we enter the Trinidad city limits, Lynn and I laugh during "What Goes Around Comes Around". Even the soundtrack cooperates on this beautiful, partly sunny day.
We both crack smiles at the Trinidad Donut Factory ("We Also Bake Bread") and cross underneath the interstate and over the Purgatoire River to the Corazon De Trinidad, the heart of the Trinidad Historical District. We find Main Street, locating the First National Bank Building with Biber's Office on the fourth floor, then Tano's Coffee Shop, and the Mitchell (art) and Aultman (photography) museums. Passing the post office and many boarded-up, failed businesses, we take a right turn onto Benedicta, climbing the hill to the hospital. Mt. San Rafael Hospital is a modern red brick building in the shape of an "H".
On the hill overlooking the hospital is a small white structure with "Ave Maria" in black painted on it. I remember the prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. As we take more pictures, I get a rush of anticipation. Blessed art thou amongst women... I think the hospital was founded by an order of Carmelite nuns, and with a Catholic high school and a number of Catholic churches here, Trinidad is indeed very much a Catholic town. Holy Mary, mother of god, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Rachel Pollock told me a delightful story at the New Women's Conference about the Ave Maria shrine overlooking MSR Hospital. The legend had it that a traveler on horseback was trapped in a terrible blizzard, and he was looking desperately for shelter. He feared for his life, and prayed fervently for any haven. A statue of the Virgin Mary appeared before him, which sheltered him and his horse. At daybreak, the blizzard had ended and the statue had disappeared. The traveler built the first version of the Ave Maria shrine out of gratitude. Rachel's NWC workshop was centered around the Goddess Cybele, formerly a male god who changed herself into a goddess and started a cult of worship. Some of her followers (the gallae) were castrated and penectomized when they became her priestesses. The Catholic Church had a tradition of borrowing the characteristics of "pagan" gods, and there is a lot of the Goddess Cybele in the Virgin Mary. So Cybele is really up there in the Ave Maria shrine, watching over her new children being born in the hospital below.
We headed back downtown, stopping at the local Safeway for sodas and taking pictures of the "Last Train to Trinidad", an engine, coach and caboose that serve as the town's visitor's center. We then went to the north edge of town to find the brickyard, which was closed. The oldest streets in Trinidad are made of brick, and the brickyard continues to make them for the constant repairs necessary. The bricks also make excellent souvenirs, and serve as tokens for post-op sisters to give to transitioned pre-op's getting ready for their surgery back home.
With only an hour left before dinner back at Connie's, Lynn doubles back to the other side of the interstate, and we climb North Street, then up a steep, rocky gravel road to Simpson's Rest, a 7000+ foot promontory that looms 500 feet over the town. This is best view of the town, with the interstate, river, railroad and Santa Fe Trail all flowing left to right beneath us. We are alone, and all is quiet up here. Lynn and I go off in different directions to take so private stock of our lives. Simpson's Rest has a big, freestanding sign on it that reads TRINIDAD (not HOLLYWOOD) and the town lights it on holidays. A small stone monument, splattered with the graffiti of Mexican-American teenagers, stands forlornly next to the sign. Salamanders scurry to and fro amongst the rocks, and a huge crowd of gnats hovers nearby.
But there is a special stillness here. A feeling of peace and of pain, of longing and intimacy. I try to feel the native American spirits, the ghosts of the pioneers that passed on the old trail below. And I sense the spirits of the three thousand sisters who passed through here before me, knowing I will soon join them. A 4 X 4 chugs up the mountain side, breaking my reverie's fix on me. Lynn and I head back down the mountain in low gear, and back to Connie's for a tremendous dinner.
Monday, August 30: Connie and I are up at the crack of dawn and off to Trinidad. It is still rainy from the heavy rains we had the night before, and the clouds obscure the mountains. She drops me at the hospital for my blood test before she goes off to work at the LAS ANIMAS (as in "the female spirits" ?) County Courthouse where she is a loan officer. I step into the hospital's main lobby, with the admission offices located just off to the right. A bad smell from the hospital kitchen fills my nostrils: it's an omen of things to come. The admissions staff ushers me into the office and asks me to have a seat in the back, where I am ignored for twenty minutes. Finally a woman appears with a clipboard and a demographic form. Oddly, while I am filling it out, she asks me most of the same questions I am answering on the form. I head off to the lab to get my admission blood work done.
After waiting for a huge Latina women to get out of the single venipuncture chair, the venipuncturist waves me in and seats me. We exchange pleasantries as she draws my blood, and after I do a urine specimen, I go back to admissions and pay for my HIV test. Then I wait in the lobby for an hour for the motorized Trinidad Trolley to take me back downtown. I'm lucky: it's still raining, I'm wearing only sandals, and I catch it's only run of the day.
I'm dropped off in back of the First National Bank Building, and I go in, riding the creaky elevator up to the fourth floor to see Marie Pachino, Dr. Biber's secretary. I want to let her know I'm in town, and I want to schedule my appointment for the interview tomorrow with Dr. Biber. But she is on the phone, taking call after call. Now I know why it is so difficult to get through to this office. Marie has a sign on the wall of her office that says, "I used to be bothered by all the interruptions to my work, until I realized the interruptions were my work." Finally she gets off the phone and I introduce myself. "You're early", she says, and I reply, "Not really". More like 40 years late.
After being given a 9 a.m. appointment, I'm off in search of a Trinidad t-shirt, postcards and breakfast. The t-shirt store is closed, so I go into the Mitchell museum gift shop and buy 15 postcards. The museum looks interesting, so I spend a few minutes looking around. Next its breakfast at Tano's, a Trinidad Institution. I order breakfast and begin writing my postcards. My two eggs, sausage, has browns and stacks of toast with a diet Pepsi is only $4 ! As I write my cards, I listen to the locals chat. My fellow customers are an unemployed laborer, a farm hand, a nurse from Dr. Biber's office, a tourist couple and a pair of ranchers. A used-car salesman strikes up a conversation with the farm hand and laborer on some issue before the County Board of Supervisors, and my ears prick up when I hear them complain about Dr. Biber. The nurse says he was late getting into the office because of a C Section. As the crowd thins out, I pull out my copy of The Washington Blade and read it, cover to cover.
I look at the clock and realize I've twenty minutes before I have to meet Connie when she gets off work at 2 p.m. I run down the block to the post office and mail my postcards. Then it's back to the museum gift shop for four Trinidad bricks for myself and friends. Then I run to meet Connie at the courthouse. Dr. Biber is also the Las Animas County Commissioner, and has an office in this building as well.
Tuesday, August 31: Connie, Michelle and I again get up at first light, and I wash my hair and shave my legs for the last time in a week. After dropping Michelle at the Trinidad Motor Inn, where her mother Laurie works, we go off to the courthouse where Connie works as a loan officer. We drink coffee until Connie calls Marie and I finally get the go ahead to come over to Dr. Biber's office. It's only a short walk, and Marie is ready for me. I fill out my forms, surrender my cashier's checks for Dr. Biber ($5700) and the anesthesiologist ($925) and get my picture taken (with my clothes on) by Marie. I then am told to wait for my meeting with the Man.
The waiting room is large and spacious, filled with old plastic furniture, chairs and sofas long past their prime, like the patients who waited there. No all the patients were Dr. Biber's, but I talked with one who was operated on By Dr. Biber this past June for gall stones. She was a character: she showed me her surgical incision not once but twice, and asked me how old I thought she was. I guessed 82 or 83, but she said 85 ! She lived in a little old farm house with her blind common-law husband, and they both survived on their Social Security. I told her I was from Maryland, and she said, "Oh, that's where my social security checks come from!" I also talked with a Catholic priest newly appointed to Holy Trinity parish in Trinidad who said he knew my father confessor Vincent O'Brien back in Maryland who was a fellow Jesuit. What a small world. We talked about the floods in the midwest, trains and how heavily Catholic Trinidad seemed to be with its three churches. "Lot's of Italians", he said.
After an hour and a half of waiting, I looked up from my magazine to see a short, almost stocky man appear in the doorway of the waiting room, calling me by name. I quickly get up, gathering my belongings, and walk briskly across the waiting room. Dr. Biber has gone past the desk and is standing at the entrance to his office. "This way, dear" he says, as he ushers me into his amazingly small office. And so I meet the surgeon to the stars, doctor divine, the man of my dreams, he who will wield his scalpel to wean me of my misery. And they were right: he is a charmer, a pro and a chauvinist! We get right down to business, as he asks me twenty minutes of questions, writing down my responses and filling a page and a half.
He then asks me to go into the adjacent exam room and to take off all of my clothes. I am wearing only my blue jean dress, sandals, panties and bra, so this is speedily accomplished. He does a cursory physical exam, pronouncing me a good candidate for surgery. He tells me very quickly that he can give me a vagina of 3« inch depth and I have sufficient corpus spongeosm tissue for a functional clitoris, which makes me quite happy. "You're stable", he says, "you'll have no problems." I get dressed while Dr. Biber is typing in his office on an old manual typewriter. Back in his office he gives me an oral informed consent, rattling off all the things that can go wrong with genital SRS and the tracheal shave and their after effects. Then my turn comes, and I ask him most of the questions on my prepared list. We finish, he sees me his office door and I notice the clinic is empty: everyone has gone to lunch. He tells me I'll do fine, and I call Connie and let her know I'm coming back. Leaving the fourth floor clinic, I take the stairs, skipping down the steps like I'm walking on air. It's really going to happen, I think to myself. It was my only moment of euphoria while in Trinidad.
After a lunch consisting of a diet coke at the Trinidad Motor Inn, Connie takes me up to the hospital for admission. I fill out some more forms, pay the hospital cashier $4,435 and am given directions for the surgical ward, one of two wards at MSR Hospital, the other being the Medical Ward which is always full. The Surgical Ward is located all the way on the other (back) side of the hospital, and my room is located all the way at the end of the hall. As I pass the nursing station on my right, I say hello to the nurses and finally reach the end of the hallway hauling my luggage behind me. I slowly open the door to Room 449, my home for the next nine days. My bed is closest to the door, and my roommate Eileen is asleep, having had her SRS this morning. I quietly put things away, and sit down on my bed, tired but eager. I lay down and read from my daily meditations book, Each Day A New Beginning.
Soon the head nurse, Rosemarie, appears with a big blue contraption on wheels to weigh me. With my dress on, the machine reads 159 3/4 pounds. Fighting weight. She leaves and a little later another nurse, Regina, comes in to take my history. After we finish, Eileen wakes up for a moment. She whispers hello, and tries to talk, but she is too hoarse from her tracheal shave. I introduce myself and tell her not to talk, that we can get to know each other later. She nods and falls back to sleep. I call my mom, brother and roomies, and also get calls from friends back home and elsewhere. During one of my calls this cute guy comes into my room and asks to speak with me. It's Bucky Carr, the nurse anesthesiologist, and waits patiently for me to finish, looking at my chart. He introduces himself and we talk about our mutual acquaintance, my roommate Heather at home with whom he has talked to on their computer bulletin boards. They are both SYSOPs, and Bucky's board is called The Purgatoire, after the river running through town. I take an instant liking to him: he's very cute, with a dazzling smile and an infectious grin to go with a great sense of humor. Getting down to business, he asks me a series of questions and I learn that because of the tracheal shave, the epidural anesthesia is out for me, so I will have to have general anesthesia. He is funny, dashing and funky: definitely one of the coolest nurses I've ever met.
Bucky tells me that some TS named Gabby is next door in Room 444 and I wonder if it is the same Gabby from Lisa Leeman's PBS Point of View special entitled Transformation: Man Into Woman. After finishing with Bucky, I go next door and introduce myself, recognizing it is her. So I get to meet a real celebrity. She is a an excellent cartoonist from Hollywood, and her insurance through the major studio consortium is paying for her surgery. She had a surgery last Wednesday, so today was her first day up out of bed. We go on a walk outside, she in her tights, t shirt and bathrobe and me in my blue jean dress. We walk, talk and enjoy the sunset over northeastern Trinidad. We both wax philosophical, and comment on how lucky we are to be here. She is a born-again Christian, but not stridently so, and also a bit flaky, but then so am I.
August 31, Tuesday Evening: Back in my room, they bring me dinner, which I peck out reluctantly, because I am hungry, forgetting I should skip it to help me with my digestion after surgery. They tell me I can't have any food or fluids (NPO - Nothing Per Oral) after 8 p.m. so eat now or starve later. After dinner and a few more telephone calls, it's time to be prepped for surgery tomorrow. Florence, whom I call Nurse Flo, comes in and shaves my neck and genitals. She takes extreme care, and performs her delicate task without a single nick. We carry on a lively conversation with me, as I ask her a million questions. She calls all of us transsexuals ladies, which I find very incongruous as she shaves my scrotum around my testicles. Next comes the enema. I know my digestive system will probably be uncooperative, so I ask her for a "double". She says the normal enema is 1000cc, so she gives me 1500cc of fluid. It's bad. I got into the john and spend the next half hour evacuating. Another irony: it was Flo who gave me the enema, but I had a hard time getting my flow started. After finishing, I took a shower and crawled back into bed, getting another phone call from my mom. Flo comes back in, checks the toilet to see how much I've evacuated, and gives me the Betadine scrub and paint. It feels cold and somewhat uncomfortable. Later Flo brings me a Dalmane (sleeping pill) and soon I drift off to sleep rather effortlessly, with no thoughts of tomorrow's events at all.
The following was written two days after surgery (Friday) on the first day I felt like writing, waiting on my first bowel movement.
Wednesday, September 1 (SRS Day): It was about 6 a.m. and I was awake when a nurse came in to ask me if I wanted to take a shower which I declined: I didn't want to wash the betadine off my body. For the next 45 minutes I laid in bed, sleepy but awake, with little thoughts of the significance of what was about to happen to me. I read my daily meditation and had my last urination as a male, sitting down - I just couldn't stand up. Joel, the anesthesiology tech, comes in with a gurney to get me. As he wheels me down to the OR, we pass the nursing station and the nurses say I have a telephone call. It's my mom, who tells me I don't have to do this, but wishes me the best all the same. I tell her not to worry about me, that I'll be OK.
In the recovery room Joel's first attempt to plug in an IV line fails when the line socket above the needle fractures after he inserts it. Bucky comes by and gives me his pre-op hors d'oeuvre, a shot which makes me dizzy. It is just after 7 a.m. when I hear Dr. Biber's voice as he comes in to get scrubbed. He soon appears in surgical garb and we exchange good mornings. Bucky comes back with his gas mask, which quickly puts me under, and I drift off into blissful womanhood. The surgery began at 7:30 a.m. I reach the center of the cusp of my life and my two sexes.
I woke up at 12:20 p.m. It is early afternoon in my room, with the shades partially drawn. I feel numb, but I notice the Foley Catheter sticking out of my groin, just above my new vagina, which I cannot feel. I fumble a bit around down there and notice it's gone. However, in a way it sorta feels like it is there, but it has been totally mashed between two bricks. Yet there is very little real pain, due to the anesthesia. I sleep on and off all day, waking up to drink a little water. Upon awakening I get dry heaves or even vomit some yellowish clear fluid into a small basin. I awake at dinner, and peck at it. My roommate Eileen tells me I was as white as a ghost and shaking when I cam back from surgery. She said I definitely did not handle my general anesthesia well. Because of my back problems, I turn down the Demerol injection and take a Darvoset to sleep on. As I drift off to sleep there is still very little pain.
Thursday, September 2 (The Day After SRS): I am more awake today but still dead tired. There's not so much pain, just discomfort. Dr. Biber likes to do his rounds about 7 a.m. This morning he removes the OB pad drapped between my legs and looks at the surgery. He seems happy with his handiwork. A clean pad goes back on, held only by a garter-belt like contraption. That's the only bandage I have over my wounds!
Bucky Carr comes by to see me and asks about my pain. We discover that the discomfort I've been feeling is primarily due to urinary urgency, because my bladder couldn't empty because the urine collection bag attached to side of my bed was full. Not only was it full, it has begun to leak out onto the floor! Apparently the evening nursing staff didn't bother to empty it, and I couldn't notice it since it was below, on the right side of my bed. I buzz for a nurse, and soon one comes in to empty it. When she does, my bladder began to empty almost immediately, bringing some relief to my discomfort.
I ate bits and pieces of all three meals they bring me today, so my appetite must be improving. They want us to pass mucho urine into our cath bags, so we get little quart pitchers of cranberry juice to drink in the mornings and afternoons. I notice I have received three ! sets of flowers from Janine, Ellen and a lovely bouquet of roses from Carol-Lee with a "Welcome to the Club" message in her card. I call her, and my Honey Girl sounds so distant, depressed and overworked. I miss her madly and tell her so. I also talk with my mom, brother, brother's lover, and lots of people from TGEA amd MAGIC, my two support groups.
I begin to notice a dull throbbing pain in my shoulder, and I have a temperature of 100 degrees. Oddly, my blood pressure continues to be high, not out of stress or anxiety or any medical reason I can think of. Eileen's BP is up too, and she does aerobics for 2« hours a day at home. We decide it's the 6,000 foot altitude of Trinidad. I am too tired to feel claustrophobic or bed-bound yet, but it sure would be nice if I could get a remote control for the TV: ours is missing.
Friday, September 3 (Day 3): My goal for today is a bowel movement. We've been getting stool softeners, Milk of Magnesia, Metamucil, mineral oil, and iron tabs (which I learn later turn my stool black). I get Darvocet for pain in the evenings, but Eileen opts for the Demerol shots. The throbbing pain in my shoulder is still there, a little more noticeable. Otherwise no abdominal pain, just discomfort, with bowel movement anticipation. The food they give us is guaranteed to constipate us, and it has. There is very little fiber, fruit or veggies. Eileen and I swear not to eat until I have my first BM. If I don't pass some stool soon, the nurses will give us an oral Fleets enema, or even worse, the bomb. The bomb is mineral oil, castor oil, machine oil and anything else handy that they can give you to shit your brick. Eileen and I both start asking for specific foods, especially salads, bran muffins and cereal, more fruits and veggies.
Friday Evening 7 p.m.: I have my first bowel movement. It's small, but it counts. Barely. Despite all the laxatives they have been giving us, my rectum and lower colon are much smaller now, compressed by the neovagina packed with gauze that lies on top of them. So I avoid the bomb: thank the goddess!
I discovered the reason for my shoulder pain this afternoon. I began to experience numbness in the two littlest fingers of my left hand, and a tingly sensation that went from my hand through my wrist to my arms, shoulder, neck and back. It seems that in the recovery room they missed removing a metal surgical monitor disk pad, about the size of a silver dollar. I found another on my right forearm and removed it Thursday, but this one I could not see. It buried itself into my back and when I removed it, some clear fluid came with it. Ouch! I continue to spike fevers and my blood pressure is still too high. Dr. Biber OKs a valium which I take along with the Darvoset. Together they take away the pain of my shoulder.
Saturday, September 4 (Day 4): Another bowel movement this morning, even bigger. I am getting used to handling my bed pan, despite the pungent aroma of my black stool. Eileen and I begin to refuse our daily mineral oil doses. Gabby stopped in and said hi this afternoon. She says her dilations have been quite difficult. She has been staying with Gleena, the hospital's patient advocacy rep, who has taken a liking to us TS patients. She also manages Trinidad's Blockbuster Video store. She "appropriated" a TV remote control for us, so we can now control our TV. We watch both Star Treks (Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, both repeats) and then channel surf until midnight. The nurses have gotten tight with dispensing meds for my back pain. I can't get another valium to sleep on tonight without waking up Dr. Biber at home. So I have to settle for Darvosets at 6:30 p.m. and then wait for another at midnight. And it isn't much. And these nurses won't even give me a heating pad without a written order from Biber. What hard asses!
So Eileen and I stay up until 2 a.m. talking and sharing. She is a dear sister, and our bonding is the sweetest part of my Trinidad experience. We are awakened at 5 a.m. by a rare visit from the night nursing staff This shift comes on at 10 p.m. and we have seen very little of them. Three gremlin-like nurse assistants come in and take our vital sings. We decide to nick-name them "Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod".
Sunday, September 5 (Day 5): It's Tran Central Station in our room. We're getting our beds changed, our vital signs taken and we are talking with our hospital nutritionist while Connie, Laurie and Michelle are all here visiting after church. I had the abdominal wires that held the top of my new vagina cut this morning, and I also have begun bladder training by unclamping my Foley Catheter line for fifteen minutes every two hours. Eileen is sick, her stomach ablaze with all the bad food, mineral oil, stool softeners and metamucil. She slept only two hours last night, and I got only a little more. After the crowd leaves, we shut down for early afternoon naps. When we wake up, we both start writing again. We are both constipated, but Eileen moreso than me. We are finally getting salads with lunch and dinner, and they are wonderful, albeit a little too late to help with the constipation.
Monday, September 6 (Day 6 - Labor Day) : Trying to remember when to unclamp my catheter line is a chore, but I am doing it, without much noticeable bladder relief. Eileen and I refuse meals, demanding a better diet. Eileen's Foley is taken out this morning, and now she sluggishly moves about the room. She also gets her first shower in days, and how I envy her. Monday evening I watch the Redskins beat Dallas 35-16 in RFK Stadium. DC seems so very far away.
Tuesday, September 7 (Day 7) : My catheter is finally removed with a quick burst of pain after breakfast. I get out of bed and move slowly around the room. But I have no luck urinating, even after preferring to urinate sitting down for all of my life. I take a little walk down the hallway and back. The freedom of movement allows me to have seven! bowel movements in rapid succession over six hours, but my bladder is soon filled. I'm supposed to pee my urine into a Nun's Cap, a white plastic device which fits over the toilet seat that measures the amount of urine. The nurses tell me just to relax, it will come, or suggest things like the old hand in warm water trick or walking. But nothing works, and my bladder is bursting. I gather my strength and take my first shower in a week, sitting down in a plastic chair while I do. But it exhausts me, and when I get back to the room I practically collapse on my bed. I get up to blow-dry my hair, but I succumb to fatigue and fall asleep for two hours.
Nurse Flo comes in around 4 p.m., asks me if I have passed any urine, notices my swollen abdomen and decides to recatheterize me. The first time they put the Foley in me I was under general anesthesia, but not this time! It stings, burns and hurts all at the same time. I scream, I cry, I pass nearly 1100 cc's of urine into my new cath bag. Nurse Flo tries to reassure and calm me, telling me all the girls eventually pass their pee. But I am very upset, and resume bladder training with the clamping/unclamping routine. Connie, Laurie, Michelle, Gleena and her daughter all come by for a pizza and beer party that evening. The beer tastes great for 3.2%. Yet I have only one, because my bladder has been punished enough this day. I fall into a fitful sleep before midnight.
Early Wednesday Morning, September 8: The night nursing staff, much to our surprise and distress, wakes us up shortly after midnight. It seems the emergency room physician on staff that night insisted on admitting a Bronchitis patient. Due to a full house, the patient could not be placed in the medical ward, so she had to be placed in the surgical ward. So they decided to give her Room 444 by herself, which necessitated Betty, the other TS in Room 444, being moved, bed and all, from Room 444 to my room (449). Eileen was taken to the empty OB suite down the hall and given a delivery bed to sleep on which kept her awake all night in spite of the Dalmane she had been given. Her empty bed was then moved from Room 449 to Room 444, and the door was left open. The night nurse then proceeded to take the history of the new patient for the next hour and a half, until about 3:30 a.m. Sleep was impossible under these conditions, and I was already stressed out from having my Foley catheter reinserted and my inability to pass urine.
I fell back to sleep around 4:30 a.m. to be awoke by a 5 a.m. visit by Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod for vital signs. I was so angry I refused to open my eyes and look at them. Tired, exhausted, angry, stressed to the max, I decided to fight back. When Biber sneaked in to round that morning I met his eyes as soon as he walked through the door. I recounted the events of the day before and the night from hell, and he seemed angry. I asked him for something to help me urinate, and he agreed. Then he stormed out, looking for the night nurse in charge. I heard his anger go down the hallway. Well, thank you doctor!
Wednesday, September 8 (Day 8 - "Free Day") : A nurse removed my second catheter after breakfast. I was still angry, so I asked to see the hospital administrator or director of patient care, both of whom were in meetings that morning. I drank a quart of cranberry juice, and was given some sort of pill to bring on urination and a 2 mg valium to calm me down. They gave me a warm soak, which is a warm compress over my vulva, and did it feel good! We got too few of these while we were there. I talked with my new roommate, Betty, who is from Caspar, Wyoming, and more than a bit crazy. For lunch I had only a coke, and soon I felt like I was ready to pee. But Betty was in our room's john, so I had to go to the Nursing Station and ask for someplace else. I went in a little john located in the nurses locker room across from the Nursing Station. I couldn't measure it because I didn't have my Nun's Cap, but I think it was about 100-200 cc. Later in the day I got two 800 cc pees in my Nun's Cap. So the 2,050 cc that day satisfied the nurses and I was finally over the hump.
Eileen and I met with the hospital administrator and director of patient care early that afternoon regarding our complaints. We mentioned the night from hell, the absentee night shift, the lack of simple palliative care and the constipating diet. The director of patient care, a senior nurse who didn't have to wear whites any more, was largely silent. The hospital admininistrator was defensive, sullen and arrogant. He denied there was any understaffing problem at the hospital, and also refused to acknowledge the critical role the TS patients played in keeping the hospital open. We were told there were standing Colorado state regulations against dispensing any type of palliative care without a doctor's written orders. I thought this was kind of dumb and extreme. They said they would send the hospital's new dietician in to meet me, and so later that afternoon I talked with her and urged her to draw up diets for the TS patients which would keep us more regular. She said she would be soon presenting optional and modified diets for medical staff approval.
I went down the hall to the darkened OB suite to see Eileen, and she showed me her surgery and I watched her do her second dilation. I also got my second shower in later this afternoon. The plug from the packing material in my vagina falls out while I'm in the shower. I shave my legs and underarms and finally begin to feel female again. About 5 p.m. Eileen comes by and tells us she is being discharged (Boo Hoo!). I envy her freedom. My new roommate Betty is getting on my nerves, and I can hardly wait for tomorrow to come, with my freedom from this horrible place.
Thursday, September 9 (Day 9 - Discharge Day) : I awaken shortly before breakfast, and again I catch Dr. Biber as soon as he comes in. Dr. Garcia, the other surgeon, is with him, as is Rosemarie, the head nurse. He removes the OB pad and begins to unravel the packing material, which is just a gauze bandage wound tightly. It does not hurt. But after he gets all of it out he is displeased. He tells me I've lost depth, and that I'll probably have difficulty getting a penis up there. I tell him back that my girlfriend will be all tore up about that, which cracks him and Dr. Garcia up. Rosemarie comes in and shows me how to do my first dilation. She takes a dildo (a Suzy 1 from the Eve's Garden catalogue), covers it with KY jelly, and inserts it for me. I ask to take over holding it. It's not so bad, but then the first one never is. After we finish, I ask for a plastic glove and feel myself up. The mysteries of the rubyfruit jungle, finally revealed! I am pleased.
After my first dilation, I notice that Rosemarie has brought the big blue weighing machine out of storage to weigh a new admission. I sit back down on it. It reads 159 1/2 pounds, down from the 159 3/4 at admission. I lost 4 just ounces during my stay. So that's how much it weighs!
The discharge process slips into high gear. I go to the nurses station and pick up the bill for my discharge meds. I walk all the way to the front of the hospital and pay for them. Then back to the nurses station for the meds themselves. But there is only a seven day supply, with written scripts for more. I remember passing the hospital pharmacy on the way back from the cashiers, so I decide to try to get the rest filled now. But the pharmacist on duty refused to fill them. I asked him why, thinking I had run up against another wonderful Colorado state law. He angrily stated it was against federal law to issue more than a one week supply of any prescription drug. During my ten years at GWU Medical Center, I had never heard of such a prohibition and I told him so. He then proceeded to slam the pharmacy window in my face. So much for good patient relations. Perhaps he doesn't care for the transsexual patients. They should tell him to leave his transphobia at home, and to act like a professional. Again, this damn hospital!
I pass Rosemarie in the hall and give her my financial clearance slip. Then I eat my last meal in MSR hospital, dilate for the second time, get dressed and try to quiet Beverly who is freaking out at being left alone. Connie and Eileen have both come to fetch me. I gather up my belongings and pass through the halls for the last time. Eileen and I pose for pictures out front of the hospital. We both look happy and cute, standing in the bright sun of a new day.
The next day, as I leave Trinidad and reflect back on the past two weeks, I feel mainly relieved. Not joy, pain or anything else, just relief. As the mountains fade behind me, I think the new challenges that lie ahead will not be so great after this.