Realizing you are trans later in life is a mixed bag. On one hand, I already have an established career and a loving supportive family. On the other hand, there is this feeling of needing to make up for lost time. I always knew I didn’t fit, that my life was a round peg in a square hole, but I never knew why. Until a couple years ago. Once I knew, I wanted to get everything fixed as fast as I could. I had spent so many decades in the wrong body, I wanted to spend the rest of my life being the real me. Which is where University of Utah Transgender Health Program comes in.
So many said I was moving fast, yet to me, all I could see was that I had waited my whole life to be me. When I first contacted the university about having a vaginoplasty, I was told I would have to meet WPATH standards which meant waiting till November of 2020, it was spring. That felt like a long time to wait for something I had waited for my whole life. But I was also told to start preparing; there was hair to remove and weight to lose.
So for the next few months I focused on the things that I could do while I waited for time to tick by. In late October I contacted the university to make sure all of my paperwork was ready to go. It was and as soon as I was past that one year mark we submitted my request for a pre-auth for the operations.
Weeks went by with no response. Finally, in December I found out that my insurance company had messed up some paperwork and my request was denied. I cried so hard, I felt so helpless. All I could do was to have it resubmitted and wait again. A few weeks later I got a notice that it had again been declined.
At this point, I decided to take a more active part in the process. I started contacting my insurance constantly. At least once a week I would be calling or texting someone about this. It felt like they were intentionally messing up and I wasn’t going to let them do that.
After weeks of fighting with them I finally got a call from the university trans program coordinator. Everything was approved I could set a date. When I was told I could have my surgery in late April, this was early March, I cried agin, this time for joy. Finally it was happening.
The next few weeks were so full and so amazing. There was a lot to do to be ready. I still had some hair to deal with and an endless list of medical appointments to go to. I had to meet with both of my surgeons, they were great. They went over the procedure with me in detail and answered all of my questions. Then there were therapy appointments and others to fit in. Although my life was quite busy it was also very exciting. Every appointment ended with my feeling I was that much closer.
I was counting down the weeks, then the days, and finally the hours. The night before my surgery I hardly slept at all, I was so excited. I had to be at the hospital at 5:45 AM for check in. What I lacked in sleep I more than made up for in excitement. I felt like dancing in the halls of the hospital, it was finally my day, it was going to really happen.
I was sent up to the waiting area for the operating rooms. I was the second one up there, but I was told to wait till I was called back. I waited as others came up and the list of people kept growing. I waited as others were called in before me. I was a bit impatient, but mostly still just excited I knew this was my day.
When they finally did call me back I was in such a bubble of excitement I missed it. They had to call me again, to which I danced over to the doors. I was taken back to a pre-op room to be prepared for surgery. I changed into a hospital gown and was put under this special heated air blanket.
Next was a stream of people. Many I had already met at one of my previous appointments but some were new. They mostly were doing a last-minute review of all that we had discussed in the weeks prior. They seemed to want to make sure I knew what to expect and how things would go.
Next, the anesthesiologist came in and put an IV in my hand. He started telling me how he was going to give me some medicine that would keep me from worrying. I was in the middle of explaining to him that I wasn’t worried, just excited. The next thing I know I am in the recovery room.
The surgery was over and I never knew when it started. My brilliant surgeons, other doctors, and other medical people did all of their magic while I slept. I know for them it is science and well-developed skills. But to me, it is magic or a miracle to be able to wake up to the body I should have always had. It is a dream that has been nestled inside me for so many many years.
I was barely conscious in the recovery room. I don’t remember much from this period. I know I asked for my phone so that I could contact my wife. The nurses kept saying I was “drunk texting”. Later looking back at what I texted, they were right. I’m glad I only tried to contact my wife.
A few minutes later they were wheeling me out of the recovery room and up to my hospital room. They got me to my room and started hooking things up. All of that was very foggy, I have no idea how many tubes and wires were connected to me.
A few hours later I was feeling a bit more awake. There were nurses and other medical people coming and going as they continued to get me set up and take care of me. The next few days were amazing.
My room had a beautiful view of the city and as I noticed the sun setting I concluded it was time to go to sleep, or so I thought. I barely fell asleep when I was woken up a few hours later. That was when I started to learn you don’t sleep in a hospital you take a lot of cat naps in between taking your medication and people checking your vitals and other such things going on.
By the next morning, I felt fully alert, despite not being prepared to catnap my way through the night. It was then that I think I first started appreciating all that the staff was doing for me. It wasn’t just that they were doing their job, they were doing so much more than that.
Every time a nurse or CNA or someone else would come in they did all that they did with the most tender care. They would focus on what they knew I needed, from a medical perspective, but they never stopped there. They would always look for any other way they could make me more comfortable, or in any way assist me.
As the days went by I slowly learned the routine. The doctors almost always came at 6:30 AM sharp to check on me. They would check my surgical site, ask a few questions and then offer to answer any questions I had.
Breakfast was usually shortly after the doctors left. The hospital menu wasn’t huge but the food was filling and they were fairly prompt at serving the meals. Shortly after I finished breakfast they would find out what I wanted for my other two meals.
Multiple times every day the CNA would come in to take my vitals and see what else I needed. Several times a day the nurse would come in to check on me and give me my medications. And every day with every interaction there was such loving kindness in all that they did.
I slowly got to know some of them a bit. Sometimes in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep and they were checking on me we would have a chat. In those late-night chats, we often discussed issues of common interest. I got to share my thoughts and hear theirs. As my body healed from the surgery these tender conversations touched my heart in a way I will never forget.
I was in the middle of being reborn, into the body I always should have had. Although there was pain and discomfort, I don’t remember that much. I’m sure that is in part due to the medication I was given. But I think it was mostly due to the loving environment I was in. I felt like I was wrapped up in love, as I slowly healed up to be ready for the big day.
The night before I was released I hardly slept at all. I spend a lot of time looking out my window at the city lights. I spent a lot of time contemplating the wonder of it all and how fortunate I was. And I spent a bit of time talking with the people that took care of me that night.
The next morning came too slowly, but it eventually got there. It started with the doctors coming in and taking off all of my bandages. That was a bit painful but they did it as softly as they could. We chatted for a bit and then they went on to see their next patient.
The rest of the morning was a bit of a whirlwind. I had a variety of medical people coming and going. When I was all disconnected from all of the tubes and wires a physical therapist came in to make sure I was able to walk ok, after having mostly been in bed for the past few days.
Then there was waiting. I couldn’t leave until I got my final discharge papers. Everything else had been done, but it seemed the staff was quite busy. I was some what impatient, I wanted to head home, but I also knew this was the day I would be going home, so I sat there and chatted with my wife as we passed the time.
Finally, one of the nurses came in with the paperwork and started working through it with us. She made sure we knew what medicine to take, when and what I could and couldn’t do when my next appointments were, and who to call if there were any problems. After double checking on all of that, a lady with a wheelchair came in to take me downstairs and out of the hospital.
This isn’t the end of my story. It takes weeks to complete the healing and some things take months before they are all the way done. But this was the end of my surgery & hospital stay. I left the hospital that day with great joy and a bit of sadness. The kind of sadness you have when leaving a secluded bit of beach or a mountain retreat. I don’t think I have ever felt so calm and safe, it was a warm snuggly feeling. I will always remember the loving care everyone showed me while I was there.
I am home now and recovering a bit more each day, but I will always look back on those six amazing days in the hospital with great fondness and appreciation for all they did.