***This post contains material that graphically details medical procedures involving the genitals. Please click away if you feel you are likely to be offended.***
It's been a few days since I made the trip for my pre-operative assessment at the Brighton Nuffield, but as it will become clear, I needed time to get my feelings in order to be able to write something rounded. This post contains serious spoilers about what happens during the pre-op. If you are due to have one in the future and do not want your experience spoiled then please do not read on.
This should be the final step in my transitioning prior to my gender reassignment surgery (GRS). The next trip will hopefully see me taking my suitcase to the hospital for the surgery itself. This is a tantalising position to be in, I can feel it but it still seems far away. Someone remarked recently that the closer they get to the end of this part of their transitioning, the further away it seems and that is a very apt way of putting it.
The day before the pre-op, I had an appointment with Lynda at the Laurel's. It was a bright and happy time for a change because I knew I was moving forwards. There was a dark cloud hovering over this because there were rumors of a possibility that my funding for my GRS could be delayed until next April. I had heard this from many sources, including a very high up one, but I wanted to be optimistic that there were going to be no more problems for me.
We got home, and a friend who wanted to come with us to Brighton, arrived. We had a very pleasant afternoon and evening and I settled into bed excited about my day ahead.
It was a very early start, we had nearly 170 miles to travel on pretty awful roads. This was one appointment I must not be late for and I was determined to have plenty of time. We made good progress but when we finally got to the M27, it was brake lights everywhere and then 45 minutes of crawling through to an accident. The motorway was down to 1 lane and after we emerged, I decided to go a little faster to try to get some time back. A mile later and it's brake lights again, and yes another accident! This was a little quicker to get through and it was then relatively steady to Brighton itself. As I was driving down the hill towards the hospital, I remarked how I felt like I was at some sort of Mecca. It felt a little like that, this was somewhere that takes a phenomenal amount of courage, effort and time to get to but I was finally there.
We were 45 minutes early in the end, this made me extremely glad that I set off with 2 hours to spare, we needed some of that time! We settled ourselves down and waited. Eventually a lady arrives and asks my name. She then gives me this massive form to fill out. Luckily, you only fill it to page 5 and a great deal of it are tick boxes which are often irrelevant. A word of advice if you are going, take your GP's address and phone number, I was certainly glad I did!
After filling in the form, I was then asked to join two others and we were led into a room. This was to be a group session to explain what was going to happen. The clinic manager, Liz Hills, took this part of the experience and it started by showing us some anatomy and how the surgery works. Although I knew what was going to happen, it was helpful to see it on a model. I did explain what is involved in my perineal LASER write up a couple of months ago which you can find here. There are two types of surgery, penile inversion and penile-scrotal inversion. The first uses just the skin from the penis and the second uses scrotal skin to add to the penis if it is too small. The penile inversion is the best option and carries less chance of failure or complications.
We are then showed dilators, and it is surprising how large and long they are. Douching is also discussed and when I am post-op, I will have to douche often to keep the vaginal canal clean. Unlike a cis-women, my vagina will not have the capability to clean itself, therefore it has to be cleaned by me. Other things are discussed including an outline of the 9 days in the hospital. This is also laid in a document given to us, it describes the surgery and what follows. We are also shown pictures of vaginas, from both cis and trans women. Apparently some trans women expect perfection, which is often not the case. Myself, I will be overjoyed if it looks half as good as some of the photo's I was shown. There was some discussion of blood tests and swabs at our GP's prior to surgery as well as needing to get a prescription for a phenomenal amount of KY jelly!
Then the subject of funding rears it's ugly head and sadly one of the three of us wasn't aware of this problem. She became so distraught at the thought of yet more delays, she eventually had to leave the room. Someone did go off to check on her and the two of us left discussed it in more depth with Liz. The issues seem very real, if no more funding is available, I will have to get in the queue which will restart in April. There is a real possibility at this moment, that May or even June could be the date, another 10-11 months.
We are led out and then wait to see the surgeon individually. I was second in and we discuss my medical history which is minimal. I have a couple of minor long term ailments and two surgical procedures in the past. I am also asked about my commencement of my RLE and how it has been. Then it is time for the examination, the best bit! Given that I have had all my downstairs LASER'ed a couple of times, I am more than ready to show all now! I take my knickers off and lie on the bed. The surgeon comes over pulls my penis up towards my face, stretches it down towards my anus and declares it is a good length and appropriate for a penile inversion. There is no need for hair removal either. 30 seconds was all it took, and I kind of feel a little cheated! I had to throw my dignity out of the window and bare all for this brief amount of time!
I redressed and went back to the chair. I said I had two more sessions of LASER booked and he replied that it was my choice whether to proceed with them or not and that if I do get any post-op hair, it will be accessible. Personally, I will continue with the LASER. I decided then to ask about dates, everything up to then had been vague and I wanted answer. I was told there would be no more dates given until the funding issue was resolved. I was however told I was ready for surgery and could go on the board, probably their term for the queue! He was then off talking to his Dictaphone and I was shown to the door. I discuss a few more things with Liz about the funding and then I am back in the waiting area.
The final part was a brief tour of the ward and rooms. Even with the doom and gloom of the delay, I managed to try to take it in. It was actually quite surreal seeing the view and rooms that I had seen in so many photo's previously. I was going to get here but it could be a bloody long way away.
When I was finally let go, I found my partner and friend and told them that it was definite. If there was no money, there would be no date. The starkness if this then hit me and it was a thoroughly miserable journey home. I admit to driving like a lunatic as well, I was not in a good place. I didn't go much over the speed limits but I pushed my poor car very hard indeed - I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible.
On reflection, I was saddened that such an important part of my transitioning was completely ruined by these funding issues. I have started complaining and pushing myself as well as knowing there are a number of other factors doing the same. It could turnaround or it could be a long wait. Not knowing is probably the worst of it all. It's a shame to end on yet another bleak note, but that's often the reality of this life.