A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.
Okay, slightly exaggerating with the title there, but here we go. I’m finally blogging about The Big Day. The Lopping. The Slashing. Whatever you want to call it…except “The Surgery”, let’s not call it that, I can feel all the trans eyes rolling all over that one, mine included.
This was one of the most bizarre and terrifying days of my life. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the parts that I can remember, of course I was unconscious for a fairly big chunk of it. My admission into hospital was around 7am the day of surgery, so I was up at 5am that day. I had a shower with the special sponge they gave me, I was not to use my own soap and wasn’t allowed to put deodorant on, which was not good for my pits. I also shaved all my armpit hair off, still pretty sensitive about that but it was worth it not to have bandages ripping it all out a few days later.
I turned up, let reception know I was ready and within 20 minutes I was being shown to my room. Now, my surgery was with Mr Yelland at The Nuffield in Brighton. It’s a private hospital (he does do NHS there too) so if you end up going to an NHS hospital my experience will be a little different as I wasn’t on a ward. My room was pretty nice, here’s some photos
I was given a gown and told to take everything but my boxers off and put the gown on. I was told to wait in the room for the duty nurse, my surgeon, the dr and the anaesthetist who would all come and speak to me. I was also told that I was last on the list that day, so I wouldn’t be going down until Midday. It ended up being a lot later than that but I’ll get back to that part.
My surgeon came through really quickly. It was a very quick chat, asked how I was, asked me to take off my gown and then he drew on me before saying he’d see me when I wake up. Next up was the nurse who went through a few things with me, mostly just checking I was aware of what procedure I was having, measured me for surgery stockings and took my blood pressure and such. I was also down to have some numbing cream (Emla cream) put on for my canula, so we discussed when I would have that put on.
While the nurse was getting the right stockings for me, catering came to take my order (I’m going to blog about this separately) and my anaesthetist came in to say hello. The Dr also popped in to write down my list of medications and ask how I was doing. I then got given some water with ice (because being last on the list, I was allowed to have a little to drink) and my sexy stockings. Just look at them.
By this point it was 8am. So I just had to wait. I had a friend with me for a little while but they had to go to work, so I decided to keep busy and play some mindless games on my tablet. And it was fine, I was scared but I was dealing with it….
And then it hit 11am and I started to get scared. All the worst possible scenarios were coming into my head. I got tearful and anxious. I had a good cry with the nurse who did their best to reassure me. It was all down to it being the unknown and I just wanted it over with. It for to 11.45am and I started to get a bit worried, as my canula hadn’t been fitted and I was due to go down for surgery very soon.
At Midday I was told that my surgery had been delayed by 2 hours, the person before me had only just gone down. This was the worst thing for me really. By this point my anxiety was at a point where it wasn’t really going to go down. I spent the next hour and a half on the edge of a panic attack, sobbing, calling my boyfriend up crying and generally being a bit embarrassing. I swear if it had been on time I would have kept my shit together. There wasn’t really much anyone could do, like I said in my first post, this was my first ever operation. I had never had anaesthetic before, so no reassurance was going to calm me down. I just had to be anxious.
At 1.30pm I was given the cream for my hand and a couple of people came to take me down to the anaesthetist. I removed my Unicorn Slippers (sob) and climbed into bed before they wheeled me down to surgery.
This next part went by really quickly. I was starting to have a panic attack at this point, I was really really scared. They were very nice, quickly confirmed I consented and all that business, gave me reassurances and then the anaesthetist was there ready to put me under. He misgendered me loads, the Emla cream for my hand was a different variety so had given me a rash, so he kept saying ‘why is her hand red? her hand is so red? which brand did she have?’. This wasn’t cool at all. The guy is lucky that I was barely able to breathe because I was fuming. This hospital regularly does this procedure for trans folk and also I had my frigging hospital wristband on with my gender, my title and it was all in my notes. There was no excuse for it.
He continued to misgender me as he injected me with anaesthetic, telling me that it was going to feel a bit cold. I was mentally saying to myself ‘I’m gonna remember you misgendered me you bastard’ before saying out loud:
“whaaat? That IS cold. That is SO weird. Ugh it’s tingling. My face, my face is numb…what the fuuuuuu'”
And that was it. I was out.
I woke up to nurses trying to get me to come round. I was super confused and just kept saying “are they gone? have they gone?”. Once they’d convinced me it was all over and I had no boobs I shed some very confused tears of joy and then settled in the recovery room.
So recovery is where you go straight after surgery until you’re well enough to go back to your room or ward. They have someone keep an eye on you for a while, check your blood pressure, temperature, check how you’re feeling, pain levels and such. I was really thirsty and groggy, I was more uncomfortable than in pain. It felt like I had a lot of pressure on my chest, and was a deep stinging feeling. I had a really great time with the person looking after me, she was ace and I wish I remember her name. Not quite sure what we talked about but she made me laugh loads. She also gave me a shitload of morphine. It was great! I was probably there for 45 minutes before I went back up to my room.
When I got back to my room I was advised to go to sleep…and then got gently told off by the nurse when she came back and caught me on my phone. I snoozed for just under an hour before my friend who had dropped me off came to say hello. We had a lovely chat and she took this photo of me. Clearly still super high on drugs.
After she left I was under pressure to go to the toilet, I think they wanted to get me up and moving quickly. I needed help getting up the first time, just to check I didn’t fall over. I was fine, went and peed and also cleaned myself up with some wet wipes, that made me feel much better. Not long after I was given dinner, but like I said, that’s for another post. I couldn’t really eat much, it was frustrating because I was hungry but chewing was making me nauseas. I found that hot tea and a chocolate brownie I had brought in were much easier for me to eat, I ate slowly and tried to drink as much water as I could.
I spent most of the evening spaced out, snapchatting friends, having a hilarious Facebook call with my boyfriend who loves seeing me high, and generally keeping folk updated to how I was doing. I pottered about in my room and walked up and down the corridor outside a few times to get myself moving.
It was around 9pm that the pain really started to kick in and I needed to ask for strong drugs. Sadly I had to wait for the dr to come and see me first so I didn’t get them for a while. I also found in the night when I woke up that it was fairly slow getting me drugs. It wasn’t the worst pain in the world but it wasn’t pleasant. Just a heads up really that once you do start feeling pain, get it managed asap. Don’t wait until it’s not bearable as you may not get relief immediately.
And that was pretty much it for my surgery day! It was a really unusual experience, though now that I have been through it, I’m sure I will be a lot less worried if I have surgery again!
Have you had surgery? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments!