Gender Identity Disorder Today

My Experience at Mt. San Rafael

Written by: Kathi Stringer

(Page 2)

"Yes"

"I was starting to worry about you. You should have been here at 1:00."

(Dr. Biber had said to arrive between one or two. The time was not ten minutes after two. Looking at the breath-taking view atop Simpson Rest had delayed me.)

"I am very sorry."

"Well, it's O.K. The main thing is that you are here now. My name is Dorothy. I'm the anesthesiologist who will be assisting Dr. Biber. I want to go over the details with you and answer any questions that you might have."

I was nervous, and in a caring humane way, she set out to relieve the anxiety that I had. She explained her job and said that I would be fine with nothing to worry about.  Already I started to feel at ease.  It was nice of her to take the time to explain these things.  I was then escorted to a room and introduced to a nurse who instantly put a rubber tourniquet around my arm in preparation to draw blood.  After several vials I was instructed to proceed to the restroom an urinate in this little jar. Leaving the restroom, I place the contents on the table. 

I was immediately labeled with two plastic bracelets around my wrist. To me if felt as if they were making a statement: "You belong here now and this is so we know who you are."  It was a good feeling, as if they were going to pay attention to me as a person.  I was told that I was finished there and to return to the lobby. I quickly noticed that Gail was gone.

"She's already gone to you room. Follow me. I'll take you there."

Zigzagging through several long corridors to the surgery wing she stopped in front of room 444.

"Here you are. It will be a while so make yourself comfortable"

I glanced at the wall clock. It was shortly after three.  For the next two hours Gail and I visited with my roommate Joan.  We also met a lady who came with her friend next door who had the surgery yesterday. She asked if I would like to go over and meet her.  (Oh no, I thought. What if she looked liked death itself had struck her.  What if her face looked tormented? Could I handle that? No, I wasn't going to take any chances.  So far I had done a remarkable job convincing myself there was nothing to worry about and I wasn't about to give reality a chance to devastate me.)

There was one thing about this hospital I soon noticed. You can set your watch to their internal activities. Especially at meal time. They serve three meals daily at eight a.m., noon and five in the afternoon. The time was now exactly five and dinner had just arrived along with a nurse's advice:

"Enjoy it, this will be the last meal for a while. Remember, nothing by mouth after eight p.m. tonight."

I ate my dinner and Gail enjoyed the coffee. Through dinner I kept thinking how wonderful it was that I didn't have to face this alone.  Gail was there, sitting in a chair close to my bed.  It was special feeling of security. I kept thinking how lucky I was because most of these people had to face this by themselves.  Soon after dinner I was asked to shower and don their hospital attire.  Later in the evening two nurses walked in and pulled the curtain that separated the two beds.  They asked Gail to join the others on the other side of the room.  I gave a little cry under my breath.  Here goes, I thought.  I had better throw my modesty out the window because here is where things really get started.

"Hi Kathi. We are here to prep you. We'll just shave and scrub the area for surgery. It will be O.K.."

I didn't say a word.  While shaving me they seemed very concerned not to miss even a single hair.  They mentioned that Dr. Biber is very strict about that because they could cause infections.  The scrub was soon over.  What followed I hope will only happen once.  It was now time for the enema.  It was administered in bed while I lay on my side. For the next thirty minutes I constantly visited the restroom. Fortunately, it wasn't very far. That seemed to be it for the evening.  Gail and I visited some more with Joan and her friends. Sometime after eight the nurse announced the visitors would have to leave.  We hugged and Gail promised to be there before surgery in the morning.  She departed with the nurse right behind her asking if I wanted a sleeping pill. I thought it would be a good idea since rest might be an important factor for recovery.  Within minutes I was fast asleep.


WEDNESDAY, September 21, 1988

Click. Bright lights. Early morning. a nurse standing before me at five thirty in the morning.

"It's time to wake up and take your shower now. Here's a towel and soap.  Do you remember how to get there?"

Being unusually alert, I nodded and headed for what would be my last shower for about a week. Upon returning to my room I wasn't sure what they wanted me to do next so I laid back down and waited. The funny thing is you know you'll be in surgery soon and you don't think of anything in particular. Your mind just wanders. Time moved along very quickly. Shortly after six a.m., John the night nurse came in.

"How do you feel?"

"O.K. I guess."

"I have to give you a shot. It's a muscle-relaxer. It's going to hurt a little but nothing too bad. Are you ready?"

"Yes, I whispered"

Trying to stay calm, I rolled over on my side and exposed my hip. my hand firmly gripping the metal rail. Hang on, I told myself. It will be over in a second. Oh, the needle must be completely in by now, this has got to be the worst of it. What flowed from the syringe into my body felt like an on-going charley horse. This one lasted for a significant amount of time.

"That's it. The worst is over now. Try and relax."

As he left the room my body started reacting to my fears.  I started to shake uncontrollably.  My teeth chattered so loudly I thought that I might chip them.  I never knew one's body could shake so violently. Minutes later Gail came around the corner.  She had just arrived.  It's unusual for her to be any where this time in the morning.  Indeed a special friend.

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"Honey, what's the matter? Are you O.K. ? Do you need something?"

"I think I'll be all right, I don't know.  I was given a shot.  Gail, it'll be soon now."

She knew the right thing to do.  Bending down, placing her arms completely around me as if holding me. She gave a lasting hug, talking to me softly, reassuring me.  The quivering starting to subside and I was finally able to relax again. A figure entered the room.

"Are you ready? It's time to go now"

Gail held my hand as I laid there watching the doors pass by.  She walked at my side down the corridor to the two large double doors labeled SURGERY.  The nurse stopped for a second to allow Gail to reach down and hug me with a kiss.  Her emotions were tugging at her a evidenced by a tear.  A final squeeze to my hand, it was good-bye.

Entering the room it was what I had expected.  Everything seemed to have a greenish blue tint to it. Some of the surgical team were already there preparing the equipment which was mostly covered.  It seemed to be a collage of surgical material, shiny metal instruments, and electronic gear.  A huge lamp was above me.  It seemed to be a honeycomb design with high-powered lamps in each cylinder.  Fortunately, the muscle-relaxer was doing it's job. I didn't want to move or care to.  Dorothy was standing next to me with her mask on.

"Good morning. How are you doing?"

"Fine"

She raised my arm and placed an IV into the top side of my hand.

"In a moment now you'll start to feel very relaxed. This is the way you'll feel when you wake up latter."

That's a relief, I thought.  Dr. Biber must have arrived.  I heard someone comment.

"You look great in a three piece suit."

I never did see him before surgery.  He probably went to scrub and change.  One of the last comments I made was to Dorothy.

"Dorothy."

"Yes?"

"I want you to know that I trust you."

After that it was a relaxing blur. I was watching Dorothy adjusting something. Then I went to sleep.


WEDNESDAY -- 10:10 a.m.

PAIN! Tremendous pressure causing unbelievable agony. I am awake.

"Please help me! Do something for the pain!"

I awoke soon after surgery in the operating room.

"Take deep breaths."

I thought to myself, my breathing is not the problem. I am breathing and it's hard to concentrate on that with this overwhelming pain.

"Let's get her back to her room now."

It seemed that I was suddenly a patient without rights.  No one would do anything to relieve me.  Not even an explanation.  Maybe they didn't think I was coherent enough to understand one. But that wasn't the case. The pain was so excruciating I could have understood in spite of the drugs. Arriving in my room they placed the gurney next to my raised bed and asked if I would assist them in moving myself onto my bed. I helped what little I could. Lowering my bed with an IV beside me it was now complete. they left the room.

"Gail, please help me. Why don't they give me a pain shot?"

"I don't know sweetheart. but I'll go check."

She left the room and I glanced at the wall clock. It was a quarter after ten.  I kept turning from side to side. My IV tube was tangling into me.  Gail soon returned and said that until my blood pressure got higher there was nothing they could do.  Fifteen minutes later they rechecked, still too low.

"How low is it?"

"It's at 40, too low."

Gail started rubbing my head rapidly hoping to distract my thoughts as I was still turning side to side. She kept having to untangle the IV tube. I was urging her to find them again and beg them to do something.

"Please, I can't stand it anymore. I'm starting to go completely out of my mind. I think I am even going to try to get up and find them myself. I must get relief."

I remember quite well how determined I was and I would have done it if Gail hadn't stopped me. I never had anything to compare with this. Time did not move. Gail went after help and it seemed like hours before they returned.

I finally hot a pain shot. It was an eternity in another world. The shot had no effect. Ten minutes had passed, still nothing.  I was told only one shot every two hours.  I watched the clock. How slowly it moved. Sometimes from one glance to the next it hadn't moved at all. This one was working.  I went into a quiet sleep at long last.  I requested one every two hours.  It was such a relief just to sleep.

Later that evening I awoke to see Gail sitting there working on one of her little projects.

"How do you feel?"

"Much better now."

I looked bout the room.

"Flowers!"  A card was with them.  "Oh Gail, they're beautiful! Thank You."

"Do you think you can drink you milk shake now?"

"Love to!"

I was going to live after all. I peeked below the blankets to find my lower body was swollen. Purple, green and yellow were the colors. I had two pads strapped between my legs. I wasn't even a little bit curious to look at this point. A friend told me it would look like raw steak, so be ready. I'm not the type that can handle that sort of thing so I decided to wait until later.

I was able to visit a little and started to drink fluids. The nursing staff kept urging me to drink more. That was their main campaign to their patients.  Drink lots and lots of fluids. Four large pitchers a day.  Gail kept reminding me to drink. She once said, "Remember, the more you drink the sooner you'll get well."  She knew how to motivate a person. Evening soon came and visitors were asked to leave. I kept requesting pain shots through night. The worst was over. John, the night nurse awoke me and changed my pads. Through the night he applied the pain shots.  He almost always took the time to talk to me. He is soft spoken and gentle-natured. I felt safe with him watching.

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