Saturday, August 31, 2019

Facial Feminization Surgery - Part 3: Recovery

Nice hospital room view.
It's been almost two weeks and I still can't whistle. And I still look terrible. I'm all bruised up and swollen. Part of my chin and lower lip are still numb. One of my eyelids remains droopy. And I'm bloody well sick of trying and failing to sleep with my head elevated. But hey, at least my facial feminization surgery is done. One more check mark on the ol' transition to do list.

When I work up after the surgery, it was like waking up mid-dream only I couldn't remember the dream at all. I do remember muttering something about my job. It was likely that someone asked me what my job was, making conversation to gauge my responsiveness. As I was wheeled out to the recovery area, all I remember feeling was extreme thirst. My mouth was bone dry. In my post-anesthesia haze I asked for water and ice chips, which were soon brought to me.

As I laid there sucking down ice, I started to feel the tightness in my head. It felt heavy like a bowling ball and my skin felt like it was stretched to the point of breaking. I had loads of bandages I didn't dare touch. My legs were strapped into a blood-clot preventing massage aparatus, and I still had the IV hooked up to the stint in my arm.

After a few minutes or possibly an hour or two (I have no idea), they wheeled me up to my hospital room on the 7th floor. I remember asking about Kath and being told she was waiting for me upstairs, but I have no real memory of being wheeled up to 7.

In fact, the next few hours are fairly hazy. Upstairs, Kath was indeed there waiting for me. While it was wonderful to see her and to have here there, I continued to have fairly bad memories of that time. I remember sipping ice water through a straw and her saying something about walking our dogs. There were also flowers that a departing FFS patient had gifted to me. Though I was kind of out of it, apparently I kept apologizing for being boring and not entertaining enough.

Every few minutes or so another nurse, or nurse's assistant, or physician's assistant would come by with drugs, questions, or drink and ice refills. From one of them I learned that I had been both catheterized during the procedure so it might take me a while to pee. Also, I'd been intubated during the procedure as well, i.e. a big ol' plastic tube had been shoved down my tracheae. That had left my tracheae inflamed and swollen which is not too great for your breathing.  But they gave me a breathing game to play with!

The way you win the breathing game is by getting a high score on the plastic breathy-tube thing they gave me. You have to breath in while keeping a little indicator between two arrows. Actually it felt good to practice. My lungs reminded me of my smoker days. Though I've never been asthmatic, I felt like I imagined an asthma attack would. I was breathing shallow. And because my nose was packed with so much medical stuff, I could only breath through my mouth.

Breathing was really the hardest part. A few times I even had slight panic attacks because I felt like I wasn't breathing, even though I was. My blood oxygen levels were good, but it felt like I couldn't get breath. It was also tricky to try to explain this to a nurse because they hear "I can't breathe" and consider a rather serious thing. But practicing on the game was good for me. I even got a few 3000+ scores.

Mostly Kath read to me from my latest manuscript. She had been marking it up for me and had made notes of the parts that she found particularly entertaining, dramatic, or funny. I kept apologizing for being boring. Sucking on ice was about all I was doing. The nice thing at least was that there was almost no pain. There was however a lot of discomfort.

Kath was willing to spend the night, but I tried to convince her not to. It wouldn't be comfortable for her and I kind of figured I would be out it. She eventually left after dusk and I was in fact mostly out of it. Though I was kind of sad when she left. Having her there had made a rather weird, uncomfortable, and unfamiliar situation feel a little more normal and ordinary.

The night went fairly quickly, despite my sleeping for only an hour or so at a time. Because I had to breathe through my mouth, I would wake up suddenly form either dry mouth or feeling like I were gasping for air. My phone was out of my reach so I couldn't see what time it was. But at some point I had to call the nurses to turn the light out and close the door (it was surprisingly loud for a hospital late at night).

Even later than that I had to call a nurse because I had to pee. You see I couldn't get up because I was hooked into the leg messagers and the IV line. A nice nurse helped me up and walked me to the bathroom. My legs felt surprisingly weak even though I'd only been in a bed for a few hours. Due to the catheter, peeing took a while.That was something that I hadn't expected.

At some point during the night a nurse brought me a try of wet gauze squares for eyes. It was to reduce swelling. So I slept with those on my eyes. Though I was interrupted a few times for drugs and vitals checks, the night went by surprisingly quickly for a weird, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable place. I guess my body really wanted the sleep. .

Morning brought visits from every single hospital employee and their mother. There were more drugs, vitals checks, the staffer who took menu orders, a social worker who was there to set up at home nurse visits, and a few others I don't remember. They brought breakfast pretty early. It was pancakes, a hard boiled egg, apple juice, and yogurt. Though I didn't think I was hungry, I still tore off some pieces of the pancakes and ate them. Pretty soon the pancakes were gone. Turns out I was quite hungry, having not eaten in a day and a half. I skipped the egg as eggs are gross and smell like flatulence. But I did eat the yogurt after a nurse reminded me that antibiotics can wipe out your gut flora.

The discharge process started with a physician's assistant coming in and removing my IV line. Then he started taking off my bandages. The next thing was the removal of the packing from my nose. That was one hell of a weird and squirmy sensation. It wasn't pain but it wasn't pleasant either. It was so nails up the chalk board. The packing just kept coming and coming and coming. It was like my nose was a clown car. Finally I got the two drains removed from my head incision. Getting those two out hurt like hell!

I asked the physician's assistant if I could put on my own clothes and he said it was fine. It felt so nice to be wearing actual clothes again, especially underwear. This may be TMI but I am way more comfortable when I can tuck. It feels weird to not.

Kath came to pick me up around lunch time. Lunch was a rather bland kale, mozzarella and chicken pasta. I ate it all, including the slice of bread on the side. Finally came a visit from a doctor who ran through all the questions we had and provided us with after care instructions. Kath had been compiling questions for the past couple of weeks. The nurses gave me a couple eye masks for filling with ice and also gave me a handful of straws. Drinking from a cup was proving a challenge. Then Kath helped me gather up all my stuff so we could leave. I was going home!

We grabbed a cab right outside the hospital. Unfortunately the driver was an ass. He kept asking personal questions about the surgery, including how much it cost. Even though I was giving one word answers he kept pressing on. He was also a terrible driver and the ride home was jerky and bumpy. But at least we were on the way home.

Kath had prepared for my return. She had gotten all seven of my prescriptions along with two over the counter pain killers on the list. Plus she'd gotten boxes of Jello, Popsicles, soup and broth just in case I couldn't have solid food. She was amazing.

The next week was kind of a blur. I looked like a monster and so spent most of time indoors. Though I did go on a few walks because they'd been recommended for preventing blood clots and strengthening my lungs. That first week I tried to ice my face as much as possible. Usually I would listen to stand up while I did that, although Jen Kirkman and Kumail Nanjiani both mad me laugh so hard I nearly busted a stitch.

In fact I had to be extra careful around my face and not just with laughing. I was afraid to touch anything because my discharge instructions had included an admonition to just not bother with anything above my neck. So I didn't except for ice.

Bruising and swelling peaked around day three. That's when I looked my worst. It was terrible to see myself in the mirror all bruised up and swollen. Plus one eye was droopy and the white of that eye was bloody. The hardest thing though was sleeping sitting up. That's an unnatural position for me and doing it for a week is hell on one's tail bone. Sponge baths did improve my morale. But mostly that week was spent on TV (Fringe and Community), playing Civilization VI, and waiting for the check up that was scheduled for day eight.

I grew desperate for that check-up. It would be my chance to learn if everything was going well. My swelling and bruising looked so bad. Were my numb chin and lower lip normal or signs of nerve damage? What about my droopy/bloody eye? Was that normal? Was any of this going to be permanent?! I really wanted reassurance from medical professionals.

On day eight I ventured out into real society for the first time in a week. Sure I had been on walks but this meant going on the subway and into Manhattan. Thankfully my doctor said that I was healing well. That was a huge relief. She assured me that my droopy eye was swelling, that my bloody sclera was related to the bruising, and that my numbness was normal and would subside in a few months. I got my nose splint off, my stitches taken out of my nose (ouch!), and the staples taken out of my head (no pain). Plus I was told that I could shower, wash my hair, and shave my face in a couple days. That was the best news! 

You have no idea how nice that first shower was. I had gotten so grimy over that week! And being able to finally shave my face was wonderful and made me feel normal. Although shaving is actually quite difficult when you can't feel your face.

My chin and lip have, I think, been improving. My chin is still numb but the feeling is coming back in weird ways. It's like a mix of half remembered and confused sensations. There's pressure and pain. My lower lip feels chapped even though it isn't. And sometimes my chin itches but I can't scratch it because it's numb! How does that work?! It's frustrating because I still have to use straws to drink and food is hard to eat unless it's cut into small pieces. Sandwiches are off the menu for a little bit.

My eye is still droopy and a little bloody, but both have improved. My swelling has gone way, way down, as has my bruising. Week two has really been about waiting to heal. I've been going on longer walks although I do run out of gas after only a little while. So I've been trying to stay rested. My lungs are much, much better. And I can start the see what the final results will look like. And that's exciting.

On day 14, two weeks after surgery, I finally decided to get pretty. I showered, washed my hair, shaved all over, did my makeup and put on a new dress. Though my foundation isn't opaque enough to hide bruises and though I'm still fairly swollen, it felt amazing to go out on a nice day being pretty. I really can see the results. I'm still healing. There's tons of more healing to do. But of what I can see of future me, I'm happy with. This is going to be so amazingly life changing.

Post FFS - Day 14.


  1. Thank You for your honesty and sharing
    keep on healing well

  2. So glad everything went well! It’s not easy, but the two of you made it through. Faith, you’re healing so well and look amazing!!! Thank you so much for the updates! Spotify doesn’t update fast enough so I came here hoping for an update and was well-rewarded.

  3. Congratulations! I hope the recovery is free of complications, and that your face looks as pretty as you expected. Hopefully, we'll see more of it in a future post.

  4. You look like a pretty cisgender woman