Phuket International Hospital is an exercise in surreality. A nurse delivering hot water woke us up this morning an hour ago, and we asked her to bring us more towels. When she came back with those, she informed me that Dr. Sanguan—what the staff call him and what I suspect is his actual family name—would be meeting with me this morning but that she didn't know when. I mumbled an affirmative and she left, at which point I commented to Jessie how strange it felt to be undergoing an intense and invasive procedure in a country where nobody spoke my language natively. Jessie's only comment in response was to consider the reverse, where any knowledge of foreign language would be near-accidental. I had to concede that point.
The shower in the bathroom here isn't a recessed stall, or a raised tub with a curtain around it. The whole bathroom floor is sunken about two inches, and the shower area is little more than a waterproof curtain isolating about a third of the floor space. We got a shower, and while I was toweling off, it occured to me that, if I didn't know better, I could easily see the bathroom as being located in a moderately priced hotel. Only upon stepping out into the rest of the room and seeing the single-occupancy white-sheeted gurney with attendant cot beside to remind me of precisely where I was and why. That only added to the disconnected feeling. It's not upsetting or bothersome, just... noteworthy.
The bed arrangement led last night to the first real recognition of what was happening. As I said last night, we met several people all here for the same reason. "Hotel Phuket," Kimberly called it, which brought to mind thoughts of "Hotel Saigon" and branching outwards from there. When Jessie and I finally went to bed, neither of us could sleep at first, despite the sleeping pill a nurse had given me an hour prior. I had to sit up and hold Jessie's paw for a while, just talking, and suddenly it struck me just how much I really was scared. The procedure itself doesn't bother me, but the idea of spending the next five weeks in a bed without my mate upset me heavily. Jessie and I both began crying, something I never expected to happen, and as zie curled zir arms around me, sobbing into my shoulder, zie called me something I'd never heard zim say before.
I've faced surgery before. I've had my gallbladder removed, two cysts removed from the base of my spine, and an ingrown toenail fixed, as well as a number of minor procedures only requiring local anaesthetic like wisdom teeth and stitches. I know how much what I'm going to be doing will hurt, and that I can deal with the pain. I don't think I ever really quite understood just how frightened Jessie was, of being with me, next to me, here to hold my paw and yet totally unable to help or do more than offer reassurances that the pain would go away. I don't think zie did either.
Zie said the only thing that could've been harder than watching me suffer, even for something we both knew I needed to do, would have been not being here. Zie said zie finally understood and had learned to respect zir father for what he had to face with all of his own wife's medical problems. Zie said zie'd be with me, until the end, and that zie never wanted me to let go until I wished to do so. I don't think I ever will.
Surgery at this point is going to feel almost anti-climactic.
I've just finished the consultation with Dr. Sanguan—which is his first name, the equivalent of "Dr. Harry" in the US—and I'm not too pleased with the outcome, but at the same time I find it hard to argue with his analysis. He said I have ample scrotal tissue but negligible penile skin, and that I wasn't a good candidate for one-step colon vaginoplasty. We talked briefly about possibly doing the colon graft later this trip, or perhaps coming back in six months to a year if I decide I'm not happy with the lack of depth or the lack of self-lubrication, but he said full-stop that tomorrow would be the normal vaginoplasty and that we'd discuss later in the trip further options.
After spending six months or more psyching myself up for the pain and suffering of the one-step colon graft, to be told "you don't qualify" is a let-down. At best, I'm looking at having two surgeries while I'm here, something I'm certainly not happy considering. At worst, I'm looking at having to schedule a second trip to Thailand, which means getting more time off from work, more money into the flights, et cetera. It's... disappointing.
At the same time, I'm relieved that Dr. Sanguan was honest with me. It would have been far worse to come away with some of the complications mentioned for people who weren't a good fit for the procedure. Jessie and I have been doing our best to downplay the fact that my results won't be what I expected and talk up all of the positives that result from this. I won't be in the hospital as long, I won't be in pain as long. I may have more time in England. I'll be able to use it more quickly after we get back. Best of all, sayeth my mate, it won't cost as much, so once again I'm saving money.
At times, I feel like I'm constantly fighting this battle. I never quite get what I want, only what will suffice. This is probably the biggest instance of this happening to date. I feel cheated, but nobody's to blame. If anything, it's my genetics at fault, but then that road leads to the "I should've been born female" path, and going that way just degenerates into nailing my paw to my forehead. I'm disappointed, and yet there's no way to argue with it. I can either accept what I'm offered, or I can live with what I have now. I can't have what I desire, but I can learn to make do with what I can get.
I wonder if everyone faces this, or if I'm the only one, or if everyone else does but nobody else thinks it's unusual.
This afternoon at 15h, a nurse came to the room and left me a shotglass of what I can only describe as lemon battery acid. I forget exactly what it is, but anyone who's had any kind of intestinal surgery knows precisely to what I'm referring when I mention it. Essentially, it induces a good case of diarrhea, forcing everything in the intestinal tract out of the body. I then got another dose of it at 17h, ensuring that my system's been totally flushed.
The only hitch, of course, is that I'm not having the colon graft procedure, thus I can't see the need for cleaning out the colon. I suppose that it's always a good safety procedure to make sure that there's nothing that could cause contamination of the surgical site, and I know it's normal protocol to stop all food and water intake at midnight the previous day, but this somehow seems a bit ridiculous. I've had two bowls of chicken broth, three glasses of tea, one can of Diet Pepsi, and close to two liters of water with this reverse purgative to ensure that I'm clean from one end to the other.
At 20h, a pair of nurses shaved the surgical site in preparation for tomorrow morning's operation. They pulled the curtain around and blocked Jessie's view of the proceedings, which seems a bit silly to me. It's not like zie hasn't
seen it all before. Then again, I was mildly irked at being asked to change into a hospital gown in front of strangers, and even though I did it with a minimum of complaint I was a bit flustered over it. For as many claims to lack of body conscience as I've made in the last few months, it was a bit surprising for me to discover this last remnant of what some might call dignity. By now, I'd figured I'd gotten over that sort of thing.
It's now twelve hours to surgery, give or take fifteen minutes, and I'm about to go to sleep. Last night, I crashed out at 22h00, and I was up this morning at 06h30 when the nurses came to clean the room. Hopefully tomorrow morning I won't have three hours between when I wake up and when I go under the anaesthetic. Jessie's asked me to make sure zie's awake before I go under the knife. It feels a bit unreal, even now. This was always something that would happen "someday," and now even if it's not precisely what I'd hoped, someday is tomorrow, and there's the possibility of getting the rest of it before I leave, or once I'm fully recovered from this and have a bit more money in the bank.
I don't know if I'll write a diary entry tomorrow. Dr. Sanguan estimates that the surgery will be about five hours, and after that I'll be in the ICU for most of the afternoon and possibly overnight. Hopefully on Saturday I'll be able to get back to the computer and detail how I feel. I won't have any details of the surgery itself, seeing as I'll be unconscious for it. At least, I'd damn well better be unconscious for it. I've awoken once in the middle of surgery already; I've got no desire to do it again.
I really don't have anything more I need to say about it. I've been asked for a detailed report on the process, and this is really it. Most of the time, we've been alone in the room, aside from the visits from nurses and Dr. Sanguan to take blood pressure, clean the room, deliver fresh towels and sheets, and generally keep the place clean. I've had one surgical consultation, and tomorrow is the operation. From here, the rest of the time in the hospital is recovery, and now probably much less of that than planned. I'll keep up notes of what happens and how things proceed, but there's really nothing more about the preparation for the surgery itself.
I need to update my site design, too. As of tomorrow, I'll have burned the bridge.