|Out celebrating the legal win that made my FFS possible.|
On that morning, I woke up at 4am. While Kath walked our two little dogs, I got dressed in yoga pants and tank top. I figured the tank top would be easier to put on and take off with a face full of bandages. We took a car to the hospital in Manhattan. My surgery would be with Dr. Bella Avanessian of Mt. Sinai.
For a little bit we waited in the lobby (which featured some lovely 1970s-esque furniture and an ear, nose, and throat mural-) before getting called over to a little cubicle. There I filled out some insurance paperwork and gave Mt. Sinai my address for what must have been the 38th time since I first called about a consultation. I also got my hospital ID bracelet. Once it was around my wrist the whole thing felt that much more official.
As we headed up to the surgical waiting room/prep room, I wasn't quite afraid yet. Sure, I was relaxed, but I knew the real fear would come. The surgical prep room was like a giant ER. There were little curtained off beds lining the walls and plenty of nurses, doctors, and medical equipment. We were shown to a rather spacious corner to suite to wait.
There were folded up hospital gowns and a disposable hospital hat that was like a paper shower cap. I didn't put anything on yet. I figured they would tell me when. Of course, not long after I made that decision, the Physician's Assistant came in to countermand it. So I took off my comfy pajamas and donned my nervous making hospital gown. Though I didn't bother with the hat. They were going to be cutting my head anyway. No point in a hat.
At that moment I was a little nervous. I kept asking Kath if she was going to be okay with me having FFS. Of course she was. She had been since the moment I first mentioned it. She was even excited about it because she finds medical procedures fascinating. But she had met me and fell in love with me eight years ago with one face. And now I was going to alter it. Maybe I needed her to reassure me.
This was something I wanted and something I fought for. I kept reminding myself of that fact. And I also kept reminding myself that I could literally say no and walk away at any point. Well, at least until they knocked me out. Once that had started there would be no going back.
Our second visitor was the anesthesiologist. They got my height and weight (also about the 25th time Sinai had gotten that specific information). Then they talked me through the general anesthesia process and asked if I had any questions. Of course I did!
So she explained that yes, redheads do need more anesthetic than other people. My natural hair color is reddish and not fully red, so I'm good. Also, I asked her about anesthesia awareness. It's the horrible thing where you "wake up" during surgery and are entirely aware yet unable to communicate or move a muscle. So you just endure the pain of the operation. It's a real 'I have no mouth yet I must scream' type situation. She assured me that it's rare and getting more rare. It's only really an issue in ER's when they have to do a rush anesthesia job and often have to guess at a patient's weight.
After that my surgeon came in and ran through the procedure with me. First she asked me what I wanted done and compared it to the notes she had put together during our consultation. One thing she hadn't mentioned before was that my X-rays showed that one brow bone was too thin to be shaved down. It would have to be broke and re-set. "Do what'll look best," was my response. That had me a little more worried. What if this didn't come out good? Plus she just seemed so casual about the whole thing. To me this was one of the biggest milestones in my life but to her it was a Tuesday. Kath tried to reassure me by reminding me that it was good to have a casual doctor. You want someone experienced for whom doing FFS is nothing.
Then it was time. This was when the fear really hit me. This was happening. My facial feminization surgery was really going to happen. I was in fact going to get my face cut off, my bones ground down, and then my face stapled back on. Okay, it was more complex than that, but that's the basic idea.
So, I followed the physician's assistant and a nurse over to the door to the operating rooms. At the doors I stopped to kiss Kath goodbye and to tell her how much I loved her. Just in case I died. Although Kath had assured me that I wouldn't die on the table. After probably too sappy a goodbye, I went through the door and followed the nurses down the hall to a far too nondescript door. That was my operating room.
Okay, this is where the fear really got to me. That operating room had a lot of equipment in it. There were silver medical looking machines lining all the walls. Gigantic And the table in the middle seemed so small. I looked over and saw some scalpels and other tools on a table. Those were about to be used to cut up my flesh. What oddly got me was that I had walked into the room myself. I had always pictured being prone on the table and wheeled into the room. But no, I had walked in. I would actually have to get on the table and lie down myself. My stomach was tied in knots that I tried not to think about.
"I could get up and walk away right now," I thought to myself. I could leave and I wouldn't have to endure weeks of pain and recovery. I wouldn't have to risk anything going wrong. But I pushed those thoughts away. This is something I had wanted for years. This is something that I fought for. This is something that was truly life changing. I wanted this. So I got up on the table.
"Michelle Hendley did this," I thought to myself. "Contrapoints did this. I can do this." The anesthesiologist hooked up the drip to my arm. I felt a sharp pain for the briefest of moments. First the drip was going to give me some Valium to calm me down. Then the knock out drugs would follow. I don't know if it was just me or if it was the Valium, but I started joking with the nurses. "This is like that scene in Captain America," I said. "I'll go into the machine and come out stronger on the other side." Then they put the oxygen mask on. I remembered that Kath had said something about it smelling like plastic. Then I was out.