What do I need to know before going in for major surgery (GRS edition)?
November 17, 2015 5:14 AM   Subscribe

So I've just been given a date for some genital reconstruction surgery in a couple of months, and am looking for advice on how best to plan for surviving the hospital stay and recovery without going insane, and what I need to know. If you've had this sort of thing done, what'd you wish you'd known or done?

I'm in the UK and it's an NHS job, so Imperial Hospital London will be the venue. I'm a trans woman, and it's the whole shebang - orchiectomy, vaginoplasty, labiaplasty. I'm looking to not end up in a situation of being doped up and bedridden, wishing I'd brought that thing and not having any way to get at it. There's the obvious stuff - books, lots of comfy clothes (especially knickers), laptop, headphones, etc... But what are the perhaps less obvious things I'm missing?

I expect I'll be somewhat better briefed once I've had my pre-surgery appointment (very soon now) but nevertheless, what should I be prepared for? How long a hospital stay should I plan for? What kind of looking after should I be arranging for after that? How capable of travel will I be when I get discharged? What's an actually realistic recovery time scale? What questions have I forgotten to ask?

Finally, is there anything you wish you'd known about the results? Obviously they vary pretty dramatically from person to person, but nevertheless. What sort of timescale is it for things to stop just being pain? To getting some sexual sensation and function? To being able to walk and look after yourself?

(Note that I'm mostly looking for input from people with some experience of having their downstairs remodelled, rather than general surgery advice. Anonymous answers directed to askmefianon55@gmail.com)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (2 answers total)
I've accompanied two friends for their bottom surgery - once to Bangkok, Thailand and once to San Francisco, California. Things will probably be different with the NHS in London but I'll answer what I can!

Things you might consider bringing:
- a surge protector, because otherwise you might have two or three things that need to charge from the one (if you're lucky!) electrical outlet you can reach on your own
-a decent data plan for your phone so you can tether your laptop/tablet if the hospital wifi is terrible
-loooooooooooooose droopy pants/skirts
-sanitary pads to put in your comfiest underwear
-a few snacks and bottled/canned drinks you enjoy so you don't have to rely on an overworked nurse
-a bidet for your toilet if it won't already have one
-extra toilet paper
-condoms for dilation
-a donut pillow if your surgeon doesn't provide one
-a razor if you shave your face - both of my friends felt really gross and wanted a fresh shave after a day or two in bed

The hospital stay time was different for each of my friends - in Bangkok we spent four nights in the recovery room (a hospital room), but in San Francisco we only spent two nights in a hospital room. When you're discharged you'll be capable of taking the elevator downstairs and riding in a car, but you'll probably need someone else to help you with luggage. I wouldn't count on being able to walk multiple blocks to a tube station - and even if you feel up to it (which you won't), you shouldn't strain yourself.

It will stop being "just pain" after around two weeks, although dilation probably won't be comfortable. Your doctor will give you specific instructions about sexual activity and how long he wants you to wait, but one of my friends reported sexual feeling after about a month (which is still too early to do anything about it).

You'll be able to look after yourself completely within a week, although that doesn't mean it will be fun to be alone. I'd stock up on groceries and easy meals that keep well ahead of time.

Good luck! I'm really excited for you, and happy to try to answer any other questions you might have.
posted by Corinth at 1:11 PM on November 17, 2015

Bring earplugs. It will improve your ability to sleep during the night immensely. Write down what medicines they're giving you and when so you know if/when a dose is late or missed. Don't be afraid to ask the nurses for what you need.
posted by MsMolly at 8:05 PM on November 17, 2015

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