Friday, February 8, 2013

We Interrupt this Program -- or -- The Exclamation Point (Part 12)

I wrote the previous web journal entry on Thursday, January 29; today is Friday, February 8.  Twelve days have passed.  The good news is that OD and I were released from the hospital yesterday and are now back at the Aspasia Resort where we stayed before reporting to the Phuket International Hospital for our surgeries.

I raised two questions in my previous post, so let me answer both of them.  The first concerned "a matter of depth."  The answer is five inches.  Sometimes I'm just under five and sometimes a tad over, but more or less, five inches is the number.  I will have more to write about dilation at a later time.

"I also will learn the answer tomorrow as to how painful facial feminization surgery (FFS) really is."  That was the second question I raised.  The fact that twelve days have elapsed since that post implies the answer.  It was the most difficult surgery with the most unforeseen consequences.  For most of the past two weeks I have been unable to see clearly due to the bandaging that kept my glasses too far away from my nose.  I was simply unable to write anything other than short notes on Facebook and in e-mails.  Beyond my blurred vision, my head frequently was pounding too much for me to stare at this netbook screen for more than a few minutes.  

The other unexpected consequence was a dropped left foot.  I awoke from the long surgery to find I had no feeling in my lower left leg and foot and was not able to lift the foot from the ankle.  Fortunately, both motion and feeling are returning.  I'd say that I have reached about the 40% point as of now.

It will take me weeks to recount the events of the past twelve days.  I scarcely know how to begin.  Since I need to begin somewhere, I will reprint below some of the notes that were posted to Facebook or sent in e-mails over this period.  I will even preserve the typographical errors.  Relating our feelings and what we learned about ourselves will take longer.  Please forgive the unexpected but entirely necessary interruption.

February 1, 2013 -- Facebook Posting

Hi eeveryone. I can't really write today, but I wanted you all to know that I am on the healing path. After FFS, I was kept overnight in the ICU in some degree of pain. OD was beside herself with worry, not knowing what had happened with me. Yesterday was much better as I was brought back to our room. I could only barely see out of one eye, however. Today I am also beginning to be able to open my left eye also for short periods, but writing her or anywhere is with great difficulty. OD, lucky girld, is now completely disconnected from everything and is taking a nice long shower all by herself. I hope to be there also in antoher one or two days.

February 1, 2013 -- Facebook Posting

Continued rapid improvement and healing today. I can keep both eyes open, watch films and documentaries, and even read a little bit. I'm afraid the blog, however, will have to wait. OD had her packing removed and is an entirely free woman of the ward. Tomorrow I will have my nose straightening, the last word for me in Phuket. That will be about a 4-hour procedure. I'm told the worst part of having one's nose worked on is the claustrophibic feeling of having to breath entirely through one's mouth for several days. So far the pain of everything has been less than I feared, but as PW has written, I don't think I will want to see the inside of a hospital again for some time to come :).

February 3, 2013 -- Facebook Posting

Just want everyone to know that I'm improving but not really able to read or write today. My eyes are still very swolen, making seeing very difficult. Right not, I'm typing pretty much in the blind. Forgive me, therefore, if I am not responding to notes and letters. I just can't read them quite yet. My facial surgeon says the swelling should be down tomorrow and that he will remove tubes and some of the bandages then. I'm in little pain. The worst so far, of all things, has been my left foot. I've lost all feeling in the top of the foot and am unable to lift it. The doctors, of course, say it's because I've been lying flat for so long. They say I should have feeling backin 1-3 weeks. I'm walking the hallway carefully, lifting my left foot carefully and holding onto the railing. As to how I look, does anyone know of Halloween party tonight? I would easily win first prize.

February 4, 2013 -- Facebook Posting

OD has just gone for her last surgery (BA). I am hoping the tubes and "grenades" will be removed from my head today, after which I will be able to sleep and place my glasses close enough to my eyes to actually be able to see. (Right now everything is blurry because the lenses of my glasses are so far away from my eyes.) Biggest concern is still that I am not able to feel the top of my left foot or raise my left foot from the ankle. Dr. Kunaporn says this is likely a pinching of the perineal nerve (?) and that feeling and motion will come back. The BUT is that it may take several weeks. Meanwhile I limp as well as I can.

Sorry if I've been sounding down. GCS and FFS are possible in quick succession, but it takes a great toll on the body. Fortunately, I am falling back on my good physical condition from decades of being a daily bicycle commuter. If I were not in good physical condition to begin with, this would be all that much harder. A week from now, I see OD and myself sitting on our balcony, looking out on the view, and having these post-surgical memories as just that, memories.

Good news is that we are both dilating and getting expected depth. I am at 5" to start and up to dilator No. 4. Not that this easy, mind you, but it is possible.

February 4, 2013 -- Facebook Posting

Much better news to report. First, OD is back from her BA and is resting comfortably. That's the last surgical procedure either of us goes for.

For me personally, better yet is that all my bandages and "grenades" have been removed. I had thought I looked like a Mack truck had run over me two days ago. I now realize I have just reached that exalted status of beauty today. Two days ago it must have been as though ten trucks had rolled over my face. I am all shades of black and blue and yellow and orange, and my eyes in particular look as though they are staring out from two purple abysses. But now I can place my glasses at the right distance from my eyes and can actually see normally. As scary as my face looks at the moment, I think I can see enough to understand how it will heal. My forehead has been contoured nicely, the hair line having moved forward noticeably. The eyes have been opened and evened as well. I imagine it will be 2-3 months before everything settles.

I also just had my first shower in days. You can imagine what it was like to wash all the congealed blood out of my hair. It might have been better to ask our marines to give me a buzz cut and start over, but after an hour and lots of help from one of the nurses, I don't look quite as terrifying as I might otherwise.

Not much change yet on my left foot, but they are taking it seriously. I had one physical therapy session in my room this morning and will have another in the PT department this afternoon.

Best of all, I might now start catching up on something approaching normal sleep. 

February 5, 2013 -- Facebook Posting

Just a quick update to say that the big toe on my left foot now has some motion. Now I need that motion to spread to the rest of the foot. I had two PT sessions today.

Biggest complaint of the day was last night's sleepless night. Between constipation first followed by an enema at midnight, I think you will get the picture. It's only 7:30pm now, but I'm going to bed in hopes of a few more hours sleep than yesterday.

February 6, 2013 -- Facebook Posting

Continued slow progress with my left foot today. After one PT session in the morning and another in the afternoon, I am able just barely to lift the foot from my ankle under my own power.

Only setback has been my face. The surgeon decided to rebandage much of it because he did not see the swelling as going down as quickly or as much as he would like. So once again, my glasses are perched at the end of my nose, making things like reading and writing difficult. Even navigating while walking is not easy. Yes, my vision without proper optical correction is that bad.

The plan is for us to be released to our hotel tomorrow. For me there will be daily taxi trips back to the hospital for PT, and both OD and I will have multiple check-ups with our surgeons.

February 7, 2013 -- Letter to my Sister

Hi I.,

Good news is that OD and I will be released back to our hotel today.  I don't know how much of FB you have been able to follow, but I did try to put something up there everyday.  Writing in the blog was pretty much impossible, as my face was so bandaged that I couldn't place my glasses close enough to my eyes to see in anything other than a blur.  Even the FB postings were difficult to write.  As I think you can see here, that is beginning to improve :).

I should have known better based on all my years helping with XXX's sister and aunts, but I have now proven independently for myself that there is no such thing as an easy surgery or an easy stay in the hospital.  This has been hard, very hard.  One evening I was reduced to tears, almost at the end of my physical and emotional stamina.  

Thankfully, the rational side of my mind turned out to have been correct in its pre-op assessment that I was strong, in good physical condition, and ready to take almost anything.  I did take it all, but it was the equivalent of surviving the most horrible of imaginable car wrecks, the type where you wonder how it was possible for the driver to walk away.  Doing both SRS and FFS together was overload, like inviting two independent trucking companies to drive their 18-wheelers over my body as many times as they would like, each driver paying little heed to the other.  Total time in surgeries for me was on the order of not quite 24 hours.  Just imagine -- as I should have tried to imagine -- how the body will react to being under general anesthesia for a full day.  It is good news that I have had only one bad side effect, namely a dropped left foot.  They say I should regain full use within a few weeks, but for now I will need to walk with great care.  

Please give my love to G, P, and everyone.  I am on the recuperation path now.  Despite the pain and complications, know that I am happy.


February 7, 2013 -- Facebook Posting

Release day!  This photo was taken just as OD and I were released from PIH. What the staff lacked in English, they made up for with smiles. OD is ready for the beach, but I think one look at me will explain why I haven't been able to write or do much of anything at all. Today, however, we both felt wonderful.

The other news of the day is that OD and I got to our hotel in the early evening and unpacked our suitcases for the first time since coming to Thailand. My foot continues its slow return. For the coming week I will be returning to the hospital each morning for physical therapy. It's a good thing I was in as good shape as I was to begin with. Even so, I can tell it will be weeks, months, or a half year before I am back to that level. In addition to physical therapy, I plan to walk as much as I can to get the muscles working. The rest of the time I hope we will be sitting on the balcony and enjoying the water view. With my vision no longer obstructed by quite so many bandages, I may even get back to writing the web journal.

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Follow these links for more of The Exclamation Point:
Previous entry -- A Matter of Depth
Following entry -- Vodka without Beer?

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