Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Daughter's Journey, part two

“It’s time”

I smiled and replied, “okay, great” I don’t think there are words to describe what my uncertain smile really meant. 

“This is going to help you relax” 

A syringe was inserted into the IV that had been started in right hand almost an hour earlier and the clear liquid quickly entered my bloodstream. I don’t remember, but I hope I said something to my sister. She had had arrived the day before after a full day of work at Hartford Hospital and joined my mom and my niece for pleasant summer dinner outside on a sidewalk in Boston. She spent the night with me in my hotel room.  And after reading a little, she fast asleep on the guest bed the hotel staff had brought in while we were out. I didn’t sleep at all. At one point I was pleasantly distracted by the sounds of people in the neighboring room having sex.  The next morning my sister escorted me to the hospital in a thrilling, and thankfully short cab ride.  Then sat by my side before surgery, reassuring me, as a parade of nurses, doctors, and medical students asked me question after question. 

“Looks like we’re all set.” 

And with that, a few members of the surgical team unlocked the gurney and began pushing me toward the operating room. They chatted to each other as we zigzagged our way from the pre-op area, down a long hall way with uneven lighting, then down another hall, passing a clutter of seemingly abandoned medical equipment along the way, like we were in someone’s basement.  

After entering the pale pink operating room I was greeted by a familiar face, my surgeon, who I had first met more than three years earlier in the middle of January at a happy hour he was hosting in the bar of the Marriot hotel in Danvers Massachusetts during a trans conference. I knew then, that one day I would be lying on my back looking up at his eyes. While I knew about plastic surgery, breast augmentation, and sex reassignment surgery, facial feminization surgery hadn’t been on my radar until I saw a transgender woman like myself on a reality TV show a little more than ten years earlier. And while the story and transformation was remarkable, my reality was much different, and the idea of drastically altering my face would remain all but a fantasy till that very moment. 

The operating room had more people than I imagined, maybe ten, fifteen, or even twenty, all scattered about the room, appearing busy. The summer before, I had a heart procedure, which required inserting catheters up my veins from my groin to my heart, then burning tissue on it’s surface. For that procedure, I only remember four or five people with me in the operating room. This space seemed more like a crowded theater, like in Thomas Eakins’ American masterpiece, The GrossClinic. This gruesome and powerful painting had been seared into my memory on a field trip in tenth grade to the Museum of Fine Arts. The painting showcases Dr. Samuel Gross, an imposing and confident gray haired man, as surgeon and teacher, turning to his students, with a bloodied scalpel in his bare right hand, to explain what has been done and what he about to do to the patient lying on the table with his leg sliced open.  I wonder now if my surgeon, Chief of Facial and Reconstructive Surgery of Boston University’s School of Medicine, did the same with me. Turning to his students in the room, with my face, bloodied and half peeled open, to explain a technical point of one of the eight procedures I was having that morning.

They lifted my very relaxed body, onto the cold hard table making sure I was perfectly centered. There were some other words spoken, but I’m not sure now, perhaps they asked me, are you ready? or we’re going to start , or something about anesthesia, either way, I don’t remember anything. The next 6 hours are blank, like someone deleted the memories from my brain. No hearing or seeing. No movement. No colors. Just nothing.