Something that has struck me about preparing for GRS is the sheer amount of preparation that is involved before you even set off for hospital. Of course there is the fulfilling of all the criteria for surgery and making sure emotionally you are prepared (which more than a few are sadly not). I am not referring to any of that, but more practical issues with regards this.
Two massive considerations are hair removal of the surgical site and weight loss. The weight loss has been successful and I am now sat at a BMI of 24.5. This may creep up over the Christmas period although I need to be under 30 so it wont be an issue. My plan is to try to keep sensible over the festive period and then use the two weeks after to trim down again. I aim to not be over 25.5 before my surgery. The hair removal, again I have done much more than I needed to and it is now time to stop.
When I went to Brighton for me pre-op, I was given a copy of the "what to bring into hospital" guide. This is a 4 x A4 page guide that lists and explains what it needed for admission to the hospital and what is needed afterwards. Brighton also do a pack that they sell for a nominal charge that contains a douche, a good mirror and a few other bits and bobs to get me started with dilation. I will be buying this pack as decent douches are very hard to source.
There are a few things that I have to take, most of it suitable clothing for lying in bed for a number of days. There are other things like dressing gown, slippers, kinckers, clothes to wear home, various toiletries and laptop/book/phone etc.
You are also sent home with a pair of dilators, Viadene for douching for three weeks, Hibiscrub for cleaning down and apparently anything left in your room that you have used for dilation.
This then leaves a list of items that I will need at home in readiness for the 6 or so weeks that I am unable to drive out and get more. Mandy can't drive and although I have friends that can get stuff for us, I am being over prepared for it all. Everything I have stocked up on will be used in the end and therefore will not go to waste. This leads to me to what I have been advised to get:
I suppose the best place to start is with the most important; KY Jelly! This has led to some interesting debate on Facebook recently with some disagreeing with the amount I have acquired. However, I was not too interested in opinions with this, relying instead on what I have in black and white on paper. I am advised that for the first 8 weeks, I will need a whole 82 gram tube a day. Some have suggested this is way too much, but I went in and saw my GP this week and asked for 2 months worth. This was met with some resistance initially but she listened to what I had to say and relented. I am probably going to need it anyway, and there was no point denying me this on the basis I could order it again in a month but then have to arrange delivery or collection when I can't drive. Obviously the pharmacy did not have 56 tubes of this in stock, so a day later I staggered out with a box of the stuff! I found a use for it prior to it's proper application (search Jenga if you don't understand this!):
Moving on from lubricant, we then encounter a list of simpler items. Kitchen towel is by far the next most voluminous item. From listening to others, you will use lots and lots of this. My friend who has had her surgery recently says she uses a dozen sheets per dilation session. Multiply that by 3 times a day and the numbers really add up. Luckily, I did actually start buying this in July, when my surgery was scheduled for October and although I did stop at some point, it did leave me with a good quantity. I have resumed buying it and feel I have a good stock.
There are then some cleaning products needed. Hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial spray and anti-bacterial hand wash are needed for general cleaning of hands and surfaces. Cleanliness is quite important although it will be impossible to achieve complete sterility. The hand wash is also used further down the line to clean the dilators after dilation but initially I will have some Hibiscrub, which is a surgical scrubbing solution. I have also ordered some more of this online, but be advised it is seriously expensive. In fact I have bought a bulk pack and gone halves with my friend who wanted some more.
The list also suggests a baby changing mat. This seems strange to start with, but rather than dilate on towels and have to wash 3+ towels a day, it is better to dilate on a mat and just clean it off with a spray cleaner. Besides this, towels will leak KY through to the bed so it makes even more sense. This was one of the first things I brought and it was quite strange wandering around Mothercare of all places looking for them!
Something else on the list, and I have quite a few packs of these, are unperfumed baby wipes. These are to wipe the new vagina particularly after urinating. After surgery the urethral opening can be quite swollen and a common issue is urine spraying about everywhere. If this isn't cleaned properly, I could end up with the equivalent of nappy rash.
Another thing that happens after surgery is discharge and sanitary towels are included on the list. Typically I started getting these before I had the list and ended up with the wrong ones. It is vital not to have any with wings as they can rub on the sutures and of course this was what I was buying. Luckily, Mandy can use those herself and I have been buying the cheapest supermarket ones as advised.
A final item for post operative vagina care is aqueous cream. This is for washing the new vagina, as soap will irritate it. This is quite cheap if you hunt around and I have a good stock of it.
There are a couple of other things to think of and one of these is pain relief. My paperwork suggests something called DF118's which is dihydrocodeine but these will be too strong for me so instead I have a supply of standard codeine phosphate instead. I also talked to my GP about pain relief and most importantly is to use paracetamol regularly as a background pain relief as it's not addictive and has no long term issues.
Finally, there is the issue of food! For the last 6 weeks we have been slowly filling our shelves with loads and loads of tins. There are also bags of pasta and rice, as well as many other long life food items. Recently, I have started filling the freezer up with home made pasta and rice dishes that are conveniently cooked in the microwave. I will have enough of these to last the two of us for over three weeks and then I will have to start cooking again. However, it wont be an issue even though I am recovering because I have a few recipes that literally involve throwing things into our slow cooker and leaving them there for 6 hours. No effort is required apart from stirring it every hour or so and I am sure I can manage that.
I think we are prepared, although if we aren't, I fail to see how much more we can be!