I hadn’t slept very well during the night and woke at 4am. 30 minutes later I decided to get out of bed. Once I had orientated myself and fed the cats, I made a light breakfast and sat with a cup of tea trying to think if I had packed all that I needed. I needed to shower and get myself ready.
A small suitcase was already packed with essentials for my overnight stay in a private room at the hospital. I genuinely believed that I was not worrying about the examination. My concerns were soley regarding the affect the outcome may have on further medical involvement of my transition. However, I remained positive overall as I am an optimist!
In spite of my early rising, time slipped by and soon John was knocking on my door. Believing that everything was organised I put on my coat and left the house.
It took around 45 minutes until we arrived at the hospital car park where I left John to return home. After checking in I made my way to the third floor for the Cardiology wards. I had to ask for directions a couple of times but eventually found myself in the correct section. Room 3101 no less. I soon learnt that my personal valuables needed to be registered and left in another part of the hospital which I later arranged.
Room 3101 was bright with a large window, white walls with a blue panel running around the wall to protect it from moving mobile beds. The customary tv fixed on the wall along with the usual emergency feeds of oxygen etc into the room. Soon after my arrival a nurse entered the room and explained that two areas of my body needed to be shaved with a small electric razor. She asked if I preferred to do this myself or allow her. At this stage I was unaware if all or any of the staff I would encounter knew of my personal physical state of transition. At first my response was to offer to shave myself and remove any chance of embarrassment for the nurse. She quickly told me that she would have to examine where I shaved to ensure it had been correctly done. And so I laughed and asked her to carry it out. I questioned if she was aware of my history, to which she confirmed of her knowledge. I explained that I had only tried to save any awkwardness on her part by offering to shave myself.
With the first slightly amusing situation out of the way she proceeded with the task of shaving me, chatting until she had finished. She was very sweet and discrete, covering my genitals whilst shaving me. Next to arrive were two nurses who fitted electrode pads to my chest for a cardiograph and then take my blood pressure and pulse. Once done a small transmitter was connected the pads and hung in a pocket that tied around my neck. This allowed them to monitor my heart remotely at any time. It was about this point when it struck me that the staff looking after me appeared to be so very young. It made me chuckle to myself as I could only think of them as children. However they were not and I think very highly of them and the work they do.
There was a little bit if an administration glitch due to difficulty in locating information of my operation in 2006 in Paris. It became evident why the problem had arisen. My current medical dossiers are in the name of Sophie and not the male name I used at that time. A nurse popped her head around the door, apologising for what she was about to ask me – ‘what name did I use when I had the operation’. They showed me a lot of respect and consideration all through my stay which I am grateful for.
The morning was slipping away. Although I had been told that the examination would be around 11am, things were delayed until they located my medical history for the previous operation I had in Paris. It wasn’t too long before they tracked down the information and I was prepared for the next stage. I was handed two pills to swallow, a small white one and a larger pink one. It didn’t occur to me at the time to ask what they were for. From past experience, I understand that one is certainly to keep you calm and perhaps the other is a mild sedative or pain killer. Local anaesthetic patches were applied to each wrist and I was soon wheeled away to the theatre.
On entering the theatre I noticed how the equipment had developed since the first coronagraphy I had in 2006. As with each stage of my visit, I was pleasantly welcomed by the staff. I transferred to a bed which was part of an elaborate machine where almost everything moved remotely. A huge screen to my left, a box on an arm hovering above the bed and a floating transparent panel pivoting on another arm to my right. Further away on my right were several screens where one or two people sat monitoring things during the treatment.
My forearms were placed onto cushions in cupped panels at the sides of the bed. My wrists were sterilised and sheets were fitted to my forearms. Each sheet had a lozenge shaped window with an adhesive coating around it to allow the sheet to be held in place on my arms. At worst entry to my blood stream would be in my lower abdomen which I really hoped was not an option. Good news, my left wrist was just fine!
It wasn’t long before a figure wearing a surgeons mask and clothing appeared beside me. As he began, he talked to me informing me what was happening and what I would feel. The first quite innocent and similar to an injection as the incision was made into my wrist. Just before he inserted the first item into my arm he said I would feel a burning sensation, and I did. Each stage increased the level of discomfort for me. In retrospect, the pain was tolerable in view of what they managed to carry out by inserting a thin tube into my blood stream. It’s really quite incredible!
As the examination continued I could feel something travelling upwards in my upper arm. Once past that point I could not feel any movement inside my body. I did not wish to look at the screen or see exactly what the surgeon was doing. I focussed on trying to keep calm and not become stressed while the discomfort in my arm varied in degrees. I am not sure how long the whole process took but think it was between 30 to 45 minutes. During the treatment he checked to make sure I was fine and spoke to me on several occasions, asking me to stop breathing for a moment while moving something inside me. Eventually the words ‘Ç’est terminée’ (It was finished). I had a moment of disbelief for some reason until he began to remove everything from my arms. Relief at last.
Back in my room the tiredness was getting the better of me along with the stress of the day and I felt sleepy. Around 3pm I was woken with a tray of cold food which I ate but can’t say I enjoyed. Hospital food is to keep you nourished in a healthy and inexpensive way and that’s all, which I happily accept. Although by the time of serving the evening meal I was beginning to think someone had said I was vegetarian. Lunch consisted of green salad and discs of a vegetable and not totally sure which. The hot evening meal was a soup that could have been vegetable but no sign of one and watery. The main course was half a dish of sliced carrot in a nondescript sauce and a plain omelette that was a little grey in colour and bland. Pretty much all of which I ate all the same. I received visits from nurses hourly to check my blood pressure and pulse until 8pm, by 9pm I was sleeping.
Tuesday morning begins too early
I woke several times during the night and finally sat on the side of my bed thinking that breakfast may arrive early if I was lucky. No sooner had I sat on the side of the bed when a male nurse arrived to take a blood test and saying that it was all fine. I had to wait until around 8.30 before my breakfast of black coffee and a bread roll, butter and jam arrived. That morning one of the nurses had mentioned that I would definately be going home soon. Meanwhile, the third or fourth nurse of the morning arrived to remove the bandage from my left wrist and the catheter in my right arm. Both had been causing some discomfort and I was happy to see them go.
At last! 10.35 – a doctor arrived to give me the news that I could go home. A brief call to John to tell him he could come and collect me as agreed. I got dressed and went to collect my valuables. I felt quite hungry on the walk there even though I had already eaten a roll at 8am. Adjacent to the hospital entrance was a cafeteria named ‘Relais’ selling drinks, snacks and magazines. Thinking of a good cup of coffee and something tasty to eat I joined the queue. A pain raisin, one of my favourite breakfast items was calling to me from the glass display cabinet and ordered one with my coffee. With around 30 minutes before John’s arrival I sat and slowly sipped my coffee and relished the snack while pondering on the past 24 hours.
Arriving home was a delight and to see my gorgeous pussy cats. Lunch was already in my thoughts. Very soon upon my return I was preparing food, lunch followed swiftly. The past 48 hours caught up with me after eating but I managed to do a few things before the evening. Early to bed and a much needed good and long nights sleep was enjoyed.
Conclusion: Due to the strong accent of the surgeon, which I think was Southern French, a lot of what the he said to me was not very clear. I also spoke to two nurses about the results of the treatment and got two more versions which were equally lacking in simple vocabulary due to the medical terminology they used. I may need to speak to my regular doctor to find out exactly what they did. But I know I feel better and my breathing feels greatly improved.