Recently I have felt my journey towards GRS (gender reassignment surgery) has ground to a halt. I have been waiting for letters to be written to get things moving and promises have been broken. I am still working with Devon PALS on a resolution to these issues and will tell the full story when it has been dealt with.
Yesterday, as part of an effort to try to correct mistakes, the Laurel's (gender identity clinic) rushed through the process to get my second opinion done as soon as possible. In the UK you need two separate confirmations of gender dysphoria before any surgeon can carry out GRS. This is to protect the surgeon from future litigation and also to secure funding for this surgery from the NHS.
This second opinion is carried out at a hospital in Bristol by a Dr. Hodgson. The Laurel's Faxed through my referral and I was contacted by Dr. Hodgson's secretary and offered an appointment today at 13.00. I grabbed this opportunity because there have been waiting times of three months in the past although they have been reducing.
The drive up the M5 was uninteresting and then there was the challenge of navigating my way to Southmead hospital. A number of years ago saw me as an ambulance technician and I know my way to most hospitals in the south west. However, Southmead was probably the only one I never visited. Mandy is completely useless at giving directions, so her job is to hold the map so I can glance at it and work out where I am going. I simply refuse to use a sat-nav! We only made one wrong turn and that was because the offical map of the hospital had a roundabout marked on it that now no longer exists!
We found a parking space and amazingly, it was free with Mandy's blue badge. We then had the task of trying to find the correct building in this massive hospital site. We got there in the end and inside we found someone we knew waiting for her friend that was in with the doctor. I knew both of these people well and it was ironic that one of them was the appointment prior to me. We chatted whilst waiting and then the doctor appeared with the other in tow and the doctor left us alone for ten minutes.
We said our goodbyes, asked if it was fine for Mandy to come with me and followed Dr. Hodgson into his room. I have had a number of these assessments over the course of my journey and it is surprising how you get used to them. This was by far the easiest I have had to do so far. Dr. Hodgson seems to make that extra effort to put you at ease and the questions are much more structured than I have had in the past. Something that I always used to find hard were questions like, "tell me about yourself". Today there were no such open questions and we got through to the end easily. We talked about parents, gender dysphoria, hormones and GRS and that was about it.
He explained that everything was fine and that he had no problem confirming my diagnosis and that surgery was appropriate for me. In addition he was very open to discussion of the surgical procedures and this surprised me because I was not expecting this. I felt quite a passion from him for this line of work and he did say that he finds this diversion from his mental health work to be very pleasant. He said he finds us all inspiring people and that we are generally some of the happiest he comes across. I asked about the timescale for the letter and he had been aware from the start that there was some urgency with my case in particular. The letter will be typed on Monday and probably sent that day so to expect it towards the middle of next week. Also he has offered to prod the Laurel's a little and seemed shocked by the issues I have had with the clinic. He also said we are welcome to contact him anytime if we needed advice or help. Generally this was a very positive experience and I was really pleased with how it all went. Dr. Hodgson made every effort to include Mandy in the conversation which I felt was a really nice touch.
We drove back home and this was again uneventful. It seemed a relief to get this step of the journey out of the way but there is still the matter of getting myself referred to the surgeon next and after what I have had to deal with recently, I am left anxious as to how that will go.
** During the course of writing this, Devon PALS phoned and I have discussed what I want to happen. They have agreed it is a reasonable request and if it happens I have said I will not process a complaint.**