Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Recovering from surgery: week 1.

The first 2 days after the surgery I had to stay at the hospital. I wrote about that in my previous post. On Saturday morning they sent me home with my drains. I was really happy to go home and at that point I didn't care about having to keep the drains. Well, it sucked, but I figured it was better to go home with them then having to stay. I felt much better just wheeling out of there. The dear friend who was picking me up had decided it would be fun to push me around in a wheelchair and she was right; it was.

She dropped me off at home and stayed for a cup of tea. It was so nice to be at my place again, with proper tea and a nice sofa. And no nurses sticking things into my ears and all that. I slept really well that night, even with the drains. The next day I felt even better. This didn't last too long though. Having the drains was, well, draining. The stitches that were holding them in place really hurt. That was actually all that hurt. I quit taking the diclofenac on Monday and on Thursday I took the last paracetamol which I had felt was symbolic anyway. But the pain from the drains made it really hard to move. I was also impossible to have a proper shower and I needed help to get into and out of my binder. I still felt really dependant on other people. I was. Good thing I had lots of help.

This is something I was really surprised about, in a good way. A lot of people will tell you: if you need anything, just let me know. But when push comes to shove you just have to wait and see who actually shows up. My friends had told me I really had to ask and I had assured them I would. But I didn't need to. They offered. And they came. People sent me text messages or PM's on Facebook, asking me if I needed anything and when they could stop by. I actually had to make an effort to keep the visitors down to 2 a day and sometimes someone would just show up and I actually would have 3 people over in one day. People bought me flowers. I never get flowers. But I did now. People brought me vegetables and prepared food for me. They did my dishes. I even got help with my laundry. I couldn't believe it. I felt so blessed. I have a hard time asking for help as I've always needed to do everything on my own and have been quite a loner most of my life. This was a new experience for me and I'm very happy for it.

The rest of the time I mostly spent on the sofa with a book symbolically in my hands. I managed some reading but not much. Having to drag around the drains was exhausting. They ruled my every move. Getting up to walk to the toilet or kitchen was something I needed to prepare for mentally. As the days went by and the fluids got less and less and the drains therefore more useless and just an annoyance, I started to feel like a prisoner again. I went looking for ways to get rid of them as soon as possible. I first asked a friend who is studying to be a doctor but she told me she had never removed a drain so it didn't seem like a good idea. My GP is an idiot. He told me I should just put my drains in a bad and walk over there if I wanted him to take a look at it. Sorry but I just had a hysterectomy, I'm not even supposed to go outside the first week. He didn't understand how that could be a problem. It sounded like he was just panicking and didn't want to help me because he didn't know what to do. Like I said, he's an idiot. I figured I didn't trust him with something like this and I should be getting a different GP anyway so I decided against it in the end. I called the hospital on Monday, hoping they would be willing to get me an appointment sooner then Thursday as they had first suggested. They gave me Wednesday. What a difference a day makes. It seemed much closer now and I had something to count down to. I counted the hours.

The same friend who had picked me up had offered to give me a ride again and she actually had time that day so it was all perfect. My plastic surgeon first removed the drains without question and I felt better right away. People told me that removing the drains can feel really weird but one I didn't feel at all and the other one felt a bit like something was pulling on the inside but that was what was actually happening. It didn't feel awful or anything, just a bit strange. She took a look and told me everything was fine. She asked if she could take some pictures so she could use them for a presentation in November. People kept asking her about the volume of nipple stems so she wanted to use me as an example. About what? During the chest surgery you cut loose the nipple which has a cluster of veins and nerves (I think it's called the stem). If the stem is too long you have to cut it and do a loose nipple transplant, reattaching it elsewhere. If the stem is short enough and strong enough you can keep it in tact. The advantage of keeping the stem is possibly regaining sensation in your nipples again. They can function close to normal again if you're lucky. The downside, for a lot of transmen, is the bulk of the stem. Most transmen want to be as flat as possible because they want to be as passable as possible. But people are now wondering how much bulk we're actually talking about here. So she needs examples. She asked me to send her pictures of my chest in a couple of weeks and I told her I would also send her some end of October so people can see how it looks in the long run. Four months isn't that long but it's all the time we've got. If you want to see the whole development you can check my tumblr. I'm posting pictures almost every day.
Then she send me home again. I didn't have to make a new appointment or anything. Of course, if I felt the need I could call. I felt home feeling great. You always do when a burden has been lifted. All I had to do now was keep on my binder for another 3 weeks and then try not to run to the gym for another 2. Just a few more countdowns and I can start my life.

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  1. Hey man, congrats on the surgery and speedy recovery!

    I have my combo-surgery this coming Thursday (also at Slotervaart). I was wondering more about how your first week went. Did you feel like you needed a lot of help in the morning? Did you get thuiszorg arranged? My girlfriend and I live together but she works which means that I have plenty of help in the afternoon and evenings (also from a friend who is living with us temporarily). How mobile were you during the first week and what things were you able to do?

    Happy that it all went so well! Fingers crossed that I am as lucky,

    1. Good luck with your surgery! I hope everything goes well. I'm a very independent person and am used to doing things on my own. Mostly you'll just want to rest anyway but I found I didn't need as much help as I had expected. I guess this also depends on your physical condition. The fitter you are going into surgery the quicker you will recover. It's also important to keep moving around a bit to keep the blood flowing. This helps getting the building blocks where they need to be and getting rid of the debris. So try to do the small things as best you can yourself: getting a drink or a plate of food. Take the time you need, don't rush, but do. That way you will regain your mobility and strength quicker and you will heal better. Don't over do it. Don't pick up anything too heavy and take the time you need to rest after you have done something. This can mean lying down for a bit after getting yourself a glass of water. That's okay. It will get better soon. Most help I needed at first was with chores around the house like cooking and dishes and also getting the binder off and taking a shower but you have your girlfriend for that. You can also shower in the evening as it is actually pretty exhausting the first few weeks. But don't worry. This will get a bit better every day. And soon you will be running around, happier then ever before. Good luck!!

    2. thanks a lot, that definitely helps. Makes both of us feel more tranquil about the upcoming recovery period. Thanks again!