At least someone is still keeping COVID protocols.

(Note: Signal chats as well as weekly virtual brunch/dinner and visits are underway! And Minecraft will probably start soon! Fill out this form of you’d like to drop by and say hi where you’ll get to hear stories about dilation, how my left leg feels funny, and the Rancho Gordo Bean Club.)

I’ll eventually put together something about the household COVID protocols because they changed a bit from what I planned two months ago. And eventually, I’ll write about my first few days at the hospital. Or maybe I’ll write about that now, for now this is just a quick update since a few folks were curious about what the hospital’s COVID protocols were.

We got to the hospital at 5:40 in the morning. Bitsy drove me to one of Mount Sinai’s surgery centers in midtown, Sydette met us there—she would be nearby all day in case anything was needed.

The hospital required everyone to mask, they also wanted proof of vaccination but did not actually check ID cards. They did ask about symptoms, though.

Bitsy left as I was called for patient intake, Sydette stayed with me while we finished paperwork and got the phone number loved ones could call to keep up with where I was as I moved through the perioperative process—pre-op, surgery, recovery, then up to my room, where Sydette would be able to rejoin me in the early evening.

Surgery was scheduled for 7:30 but my anxiously skyrocketing blood pressure pushed it to about 8. The social worker came in and asked me to tell her exactly what surgery I was having, I said I was having a vaginoplasty, it felt a bit like a jetliner preparing for takeoff because everyone had clear checklists to make sure I was of sound mind, that I was the right person there for the right procedure, that I knew I was making an irrevocable decision. With anxiety, my blood pressure jumped to 179 over 100 before dropping back to 150/85. Still higher than normal.

Dr. A came and checked in with me. Yes, I wanted full depth, yes, let’s use the testicular lining to get more material for the canal. She said my blood pressure was high so it was up to the anesthesiologist whether I could have surgery.

There was also some confusion about my piercings—I wore no jewelry, and left my smartwatch at home and had replaced all my body jewerly with plastic retainers the night before so nothing would interact with any of the medical equipment, but some of the nurses still weren’t sure. The second anesthesiologist I talked to knew what was up and thanked me for doing the right thing. To help calm me, she told me exactly what would happen—I would walk to the OR, she would say hello and ask me to lay down on the operating table—more a padded cross. She would tell me how she was putting in an IV, start a drip with something that would calm me, put me on oxygen, and then check in before putting me under.

I went in wearing a brand new N95, I packed one for every day in my backpack, but they wrapped around the back of the head, so they had me change into an around-the-ear medical mask before I went to the operating room (OR).

When we were ready, the nurse walked me to the OR in two gowns (one in front, on behind) and hospital socks. The ones with grippies. They were mustard yellow.

I think.

From the way everyone said “up to the OR”, I thought I had to take an elevator to the next floor. It was just at the mouth of the hallway, barely 50 feet away from where I had undressed. I was surprised that the walk took less than 30 seconds.

I entered, everyone was getting ready, the anesthesiologist said hello, she asked me to lay down, put in an IV, gave me a reassuring smile and I was asleep.

Someone, a man, was shaking me asking me to wake up, a Black man—I was so glad how much of my medical team were POC—it felt safe. But he was waking me up and I was tired. I’d barely slept the week before and I was finally getting some good sleep. It took me a while to realize he was waking me up because I needed to come out of anesthesia.

This time I’d been under much longer than the last two times I’d been under, so I felt much more tired. Previously, I tried to convince my recovery nurses to publish research they’d been working on. This time I just wanted to sleep. I said something to say “yes, i’m here” and immediately fell back asleep.

I think Sydette rejoined me around 16:30, I was pretty high on pain meds though, so I only know that through others. She brought beautiful flowers, though. It had eremurus, crocosmia, and veronica, pointy flowers. Kinda like giving my penis a nice farewell.

She got to see me higher than I’d ever been—when people were telling me to rest, I told them that I figured out the perfect position to cantilever my arm so I could hold my phone and text without expending too much energy. Bitsy and Sydette texted everyone to tell them I made it through while I slept.

The hospital’s COVID protocols allowed two visitors a day—separately—between 11:00 and 19:00. Everyone was supposed to bring their ID and proof of vaccination, but they were a bit relaxed about it.

Visitors were required to mask, I was not—for the first few days I was hooked up to the most delicious air—pure oxygen. I was sad when we took me off. I always loved breathing oxygen, it felt so pure, fresh, and energizing.

They were also a little lax at keeping track of whether someone was still up in my room, but nothing a quick text didn’t fix. I didn’t get to see my surgeon until the morning before I got discharged—in retrospect, I think that was surgery week for her—I’m pretty sure she did at least two or three other surgeries that week and I was just the first of a busy week.

And this is the reality of gender-affirming surgeries—there are more people who need and want surgery than there are competent surgeons. And I had chosen one of the top 5 in the country. She was busy. She had to be. Every surgery was a dream come true, a body affirmed.

Everyone masked except the patients, I wasn’t even offered a mask until I was getting discharged, I pulled out a fresh N95 and pressure fitted it before getting out of my hospital bed and into the wheelchair to go down to the car. Bitsy packed everything up and drove me home, wound vac, Foley, catheter, and hospital socks. Leaning all the way back in the passenger seat, I stared at the New York City skyline and treetops as I laid back in the car as we drove from Midtown back to Bed-Stuy, still in the mustard grippy socks.


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