Day 1 Post-Op

During my stay I received excellent care from five nurses, each on 12 hour shifts and each with just 4 patients to look after – Hannah, Talia, Shana, Sam and Briana.  Obviously you had to have lots of “a”s in your name to work on the section.   They were all very familiar with Transgender patients – used my preferred name of Stephanie even though my ID bracelet said Robin, used the correct pronouns – a big thing for me.   Jamie, the Surgeon’s PA, came to see me this morning, took a quick look and told me it had been a perfect surgery.  She also said everything had gone to plan and apart from some swelling and bruising it was looking good.  I was pleased to hear that.   I still had to lie flat on my back (no inclination greater than 30 degrees).  There was a big plus side – I had a little button to my left which put a shot of morphine into the IV if pressed.  I had been warned not to be a hero and let the pain get too bad so press it I did.   The best part of this is that Denise was never more than a few meters from me (apart from when she went to the cafeteria for meals) as she had a fold-out bed in the room.   The highlight of my day was being presented with my beautiful ring – I was involved in the choosing of it before we left Australia but it was agreed that I would be given it when fully awake after the surgery (for being a brave girl).

My reward for being a brave girl

Today is the day!

After 172 days since I booked my surgery we have arrived at the day! I can hardly believe it, it feels so un real, that day I have longed for for so long. I am 2 thirds of the way through my preparation treatments with one more element at 3 am then the taxi is collecting us at 5.15 with a view to arriving at the hospital around 5.45, I hour to get checked in and my surgery at 8.15 hopefully. There are three of us having surgery today but I am seemingly the only one using the recovery suites which is excellent really as we have the place to ourselves.

The number of messages I have received today wishing me luck and sending love has really overwhelmed me, I have said it before but I feel so blessed to have such lovely friends and so many of you. If I get chance I’ll do another post before the surgery but if not thank you all for your support over the last 9 months, it has been a roller coaster of a ride and I still can’t believe it’s happening, my dream of at last being the person I want to be and should have always been is coming true today!


After a short wait in the waiting area we were ushered upstairs to the 8th floor of Hahnemann University Hospital.   I was shown to my bed and the curtains were pulled around.  My first thoughts were “This is serious”.  Then the first of a seemingly endless line of people came and asked me all the usual questions – name, date of birth, what I’m here for.  After about the fourth one, I was introduced to the first of the Anaesthesia team who asked the same questions, then the second and finally the third.  The second, Christine, then inserted the cannula after her third attempt.  I was then allocated a Prep nurse called Jan who explained what was going to happen next.  Christine came back and gave me a shot of what she called a sedative.  Denise and I said our goodbyes at 8.10am and I was wheeled into the Pre-Op area.  I don’t remember arriving there, in fact the next thing I remember was someone calling “Stephanie, are you with us”.  Now after 56 years of answering to Robin it took me a while to cotton on that they were talking to me through my anaesthesia haze but eventually I opened my eyes to find lots of people around the bed.   The next thing I remember was being put in a lift up to the 17th floor and taken to my room.  When Denise wasn’t there I asked someone to call her – she was sitting all the while in a Waiting room on the 9th floor; no-one had told her I was out of surgery.  The time by now was about 1.30pm. The rest of the day was spent drifting in and out of sleep.

Meet Kathy

We had an early start this morning as my meeting with the surgeon was at 9.30, we got all packed up and on our way by 8.30. After the short drive to the clinic (which is deserted as today is a public holiday) we get our first look at home for the next 9 days apart from when I’m in the hospital.  Its clean, spacious and quiet, perfect!  And the bed is comfortable which was the only down side to the last place.

My first meeting with Kathy was everything i had hoped for, the first thing she did was give me a big hug, its such a small thing but it meant the world to me, could you imagine a surgeon in Australia or the UK giving you a hug the first time she met you? She answered my questions and had a quick look at what she has to work with, seemed very happy and we parted with another hug, perfect!

Coffee was the next thing on the list, fortunately I drink it black as i am on a clear liquid diet for the next 13 hours then nothing until after the job gas been done.

Last meal for some time!

Well with just 35 or so hours to go I have eaten my last meal for some time! Tomorrow is a clear liquid diet, not much fun but I guess it’s necessary to clean me out as it were if that’s not too much information! We are meeting the surgeon in the morning which is good news, I have lots of questions and I have to say I’m starting to feel the heat a little, I don’t know wether it’s nervous excitement or just a bit of fear of the unknown, I haven’t had an operation since I was 10 so don’t remember much about that and there is so much more at stake here, it’s the realisation of my dream to become the person I have longed to be for over 40 years and I want it so much!

Under 40 hours!

With less than 40 hours before my surgery I can feel the sense of anticipation rising! We decided to have some retail therapy today and drove to Franklin mill shopping Mall.  We arrived a few minutes before it officially opened but the doors were open and we needed coffee. After a short walk we found a Starbucks and as much as they will never be my favourite coffee shop, needs must and it was the only thing open at the time. Franklin mill is a massive place and we didn’t really know where to start so just took pot luck and went into the first big store we could find which happened to be Burlingtons and it wasn’t too bad at all, we found numerous items to try on and headed for the fitting rooms to try them on, most of them fitted well but we went to see what else was available and eventually came across the dresses area. Now dresses are something I am certainly not short of but being from Yorkshire, can’t resist a bargain and what a bargain we found, a size 12 dress, floral in shades of jade, I loved it as soon as I saw it, I picked two others up, a plain very bright yellow one and a white one with orange and pink flowers on it, they all fitted really well but I decided I wouldn’t wear a bright yellow dress and Denise didn’t care for the white one so I was happy to take just the jade one and love it. Sadly shoes were not as successful as dresses, there were very few big enough and what I thought would have been just didn’t fit so we came away empty handed in the shoe department, we had lunch and headed home, tough job this shopping!

It’s Nise here – I have been granted an occasional invitational spot in this blog.  Hope you don’t mind.  It’s hard to believe it’s  nearly a week since we left Perth but as Stephanie has said, the time has passed quickly and we are now down to counting the hours…  As she won’t be able to drive after surgery we made the decision that I would be the driver for the duration of the trip.  Now anyone who knows Steph will know how hard that is for her – she likes to be steering!  You will also know what I mean when I say that I don’t know what is more stressful – driving in a city that we don’t know, on the wrong side of the road or having her as a co-driver!!  However I must be truthful, with the help of Google maps we have always got to where we wanted to go and she isn’t gripping the seat as often.  Shopping today was very enjoyable and we have ended up buying a number of “common” tops. That’s not to say they aren’t posh, just that we can share them – bonus!  We were however very disappointed with Walmart – having seen the photos on Facebook we thought we were in for some entertainment but sadly everyone was appropriately dressed 😄 Sitting with our feet up now before we head out for our walk and to pick up some dinner.  This will be the last time Steph eats until after her operation – prep begins in earnest tomorrow.

Great news!

So my surgery is just a few days away, I have started my preparation medication today and there is lots more to do before Tuesday, we walked into town this morning to get a few things, ended up in Starbucks for coffee and cake of course, very enjoyable! When we got back there was a message from the hospital to say my surgery has been brought forward to 8am from 12.30 which is excellent news, not just because it is earlier but there will be less time for the excitement of the days events to turn into nervous!

i can’t believe the number of supportive emails and messages I am receiving, I have just spent over three hours continually replying to them! I don’t know what I have ever done to deserve the love that I am receiving but it’s very greatfully received. It’s just 63 hours away now, not that I am counting or excited and as I said earlier  I have already started my pre-op medication and there is lots more to do before the day. I am astounded at the lengths which the surgeon and her team go to to ensure the best possible result and the shortest recovery time, they are gorgeous people, so caring I just know I am in the best possible hands.

This brings me to something I have wanted to say for some time, I am totally overwhelmed by the way the medical profession has handled my transitioning. From my GP in Busselton, to the psychologist, the speech therapist, my specialist in Perth, the Endocrinologist and to the team here in Philadelphia, the care, empathy and professionalism have just astounded me and left me feeling humbled and loved, yes I know I have paid for it but so often you don’t get the amount of care you deserve and I guess a lot of it is to do with the people I have been recommended/referred to which goes back to 2012 when I was recommended to see my GP. I didn’t actually have a GP at the time and it was my osteopath who gave me the name of my GP and simply said “this lady will look after you” that has turned out to be the biggest understatement ever, she has been truly amazing and wonderful, has spent much more time with me than I deserve and has never shown anything but kindness to me. They say you reap what you sow, well I can’t remember sowing what I’m reaping at the moment and I will find a way to give back for all I have received!

Less than 100 hours

The clock is ticking and we have much to do before my surgery, we were up early today, beautiful scrambled eggs for breakfast and on our way with a long list of jobs for this morning, the last of which was meeting the surgeon for the first time in person as we have only spoken via Skype. I have psyched myself up for this as part of the meeting I’m sure will be an examination but I need it to happen, I have lots of questions and really need to get a feel for how I will be afterwards. The jobs went well, parking permit, chemist, coffee! And that’s when it all went wrong, I received an email from one of the lovely girls that work for Kathy regarding the payment for the hospital which had been a problem yesterday, now we have this sorted but just haven’t heard back from them telling me that it’s all goood but the disappointing part of the email was that Kathy is not going to be at work today and won’t see me until I am at the hospital on Tuesday, to say I was gutted was an understatement, I so want to talk to her before, she has never seen “what she has to work with here!” What if there is a problem? I will be all prepared for surgery and it will be cancelled! We decided to go to the clinic, I would have been happy for Heather to make sure all was ok but she was busy, Kami and Dawn to the rescue, both were so lovely, Kami phoned Kathy and said Kathy would call me to make sure I was ok with everything, Dawn had explained that she regularly operates on people she has not examined and it not like I have anything radically different or anything but I would just be much more comfortable if she had examined me first. We left a little happier but I my mind I didn’t expect to hear from Kathy and was considering what to do about it. We went to a small supermarket to get a few things then headed home for a late lunch, just as we had finished preparing my phone rang and it was Kathy, very apologetic, assured me all would be good and she was happy to see me on Monday (a public holiday) when we get to the clinic, it was like a weight had been lifted off me, so happy! I have been so impressed by the way I have been looked after, while it is costing a lot of dollars the peace of mind is so important and the lengths we and they are going to to get the best possible outcome from the surgery is incredible and I just know I will be so happy with the end result, one happy Stephanie!

Not the best day but hopefully all sorted

Today we needed to go to the hospital to pay their fees, not a big job I thought, everything had been sorted with the credit card issuers in advance so didn’t think there would be an issue but the card was declined twice, to make matters worse the international help line was continually engaged, not much good if you have an issue! Anyway it’s supposed to have been sorted now, we will go back again tomorrow and try again! The lady there who is looking after it is lovely though, so helpful and kind once again. The weather improved enough so I could have a walk after we had done some shopping, bought a few supplies and a non stick frying pan as the one here is not good for doing my famous scrambled eggs which simply won’t do! Looking forward to trying it out tomorrow!!

Tomorrow also sees my first physical meeting with the surgeon Kathy, I’m presuming she will want to take a look at what she is working with!! Not an exciting prospect but necessary I guess and I will probably need to get used to it as I think the next few weeks will be lacking in dignity as far as people seeing everything I’ve got, or not got as the case will be. I’m not stressed about it as I want this more than I have ever wanted anything in my life, the surgery is only just over 100 hours away and I just want to get on with it.

Jet lag and other

Now I don’t usually suffer much from jet lag but 55 hours from leaving Busselton to arriving here has taken a bit of handling! However we had a good nights sleep last night with only one tea break at around 12.30 after hitting the sack some 5 hours earlier.

Today we have woken to a rainy morning but with an improving forecast, I certainly hope so as I didn’t pack a coat! Lots to do today, visit the hospital and pay my dues being one of the jobs then hopefully hit the shopping malls for some retail therapy to add to Stephanie’s wardrobe.

I can see writing posts here being a very positive thing over the next 4 weeks or so and want to thank Suzanne Aston for all her work in setting it up for me, Suzanne you have been an incredible help to me over the last few months and inspirational in getting Stephanie out into the world, thank you for everything, you’re an awesome lady!