Not surprisingly, I tossed and turned all night, thinking of my body, my mind, my relationships, and my upcoming adventure. At the first sign of light, which comes early on this fareastern edge of the Mountain time zone, I rose, took a shower, shaved the surgery area (not that much fun), and went back to lie in bed with Mary Jo. There’s nothing to do on surgery day, no makeup to apply, no clothes to choose, no breakfast to eat, nothing to do but watch the clock. I was admonished to avoid putting anything in my belly after midnight, so there was no coffee or even chewing gum.
So we waited, watching the lightening sky over Trinidad, seeing the bright sunlight hit the impressive Fisher Peak watching high over the SSWestern side of the city, packing a few things to take to the hospital. I found that I felt a bit as if I were on autopilot, and Mary Jo kept me in line, especially when it came for packing. I initially began putting quite a bit of stuff together, but Mary Jo ultimately helped me pack a single totebag with just a spare set of clothes and my laptop. I took my purse with all its belongings, including cellphone, although I was to learn that I didn’t once poke my head into it except to get some lip salve.
Finally it was 8:30, and we drove to the clinic to meet Dr. Marci Bowers. Having done all the administrative work the night before, there would be no bureaucratic delays this morning — just this consultation with my doctor. She arrived promptly, where she examined me and declared me an excellent prospect with high quality and ample skin for the procedure. We discussed likely outcomes, possible complications, and general timeline she experiences, took a photo together, then split up to rendezvous at the hospital in a few minutes.
Marci has been on the Discovery Channel and she’s got a certain air of celebrity about her, but this was not the time for any star-struck fandom; this is serious business, and we were focused entirely on surgery. I would have time to talk with her later, but I never felt anything other than her competence and confidence as a surgeon this morning.
Mary Jo and I walked over to hospital 100 yards away for surgery, where we were ushered directly to our room (107, I believe). My nurse got me into my gown, Mary Jo stowed all my belongings, and I was given a mighty enema, something that felt a bit cruel given my non-stop bathroom visits of the night before and the inevitable rawness you’d expect. Still, the enema was conquered and I was pronounced ready for surgery. Mary Jo waited in the room while I walked over to the OR Prep area, where I sat in a medical easy chair and got hooked up to my IV. Once the IV was started, Mary Jo was invited in, and we talked until the anesthesiologist arrived and asked us questions; with a wry humor balancing obvious professionalism, we felt quite at ease. Mary Jo asked if any of Marci’s patients got cold feet at this point, and he said that 2 or 3 had done so in several hundreds of GRS’s he had worked on. Naturally, the thought crossed my mind to join those 2 or 3, but knowing that I truly did want this surgery and that I had the support of Mary Jo, family, and friends, the fantasy wasn’t seriously entertained.
Dr. Bowers popped her head in, had me stand up while she marked my body in a couple of places, then said she’d see me on the other side. Somewhere out of my music collection came a Woody Guthrie song, which I began singing: “So long, it’s been good to know ye.” A nurse had me stand up — which suggests I had only a saline drip and perhaps a mild sedative, because walking was easy — and walk to the operating room. I twittered one last update on my cellphone, handed it to Mary Jo, hugged and kissed her, and then left her behind a “do not cross” line outside the OR. I greeted the nurse on the right and left, crawled up on the table, began asking something, then woke in recovery several hours later.
The rest of my day was kind of blurry. The first thing I remember is trying to scratch and itch on my forehead and having my hands taken away: “You might scratch your eyeballs, dear.” Lots of ice, ice chips in the mouth, and a trip over to my room, all blurred. I was told that I would only have liquids today, and not having eaten for 2 days, I asked for chicken broth, which tasted like ambrosia when I drank it. I received a few morphine shots that burned when they entered my IV, and the pain was pretty intense on and off during the evening, spiking around an 8 or 9 (out of 10). It wasn’t a particularly good night, but Mary Jo was there for a while, and I got lots of attention from the nurses during the night.
There was no time (or mental energy) for reflection on what I had done, but Mary Jo and I certainly did talk about finally being finished with this part of our journey. I remember feeling a sense of relief but all my physical changes would be realized and reckoned with in the coming days.