There are times I come here to write and I have nothing to say, or rather nothing that I feel is worth saying. Then there are other days I come here and I am so overwhelmed with what needs to be said, that I don’t know where to start…today is one of THOSE days. I have decided that the best way to go about this is to break it up a bit, so over the next few days you may see multiple posts come across this page. I apologize now, but by breaking it up into sections, you can pick and choose what you want to read or view, and I can take a break in between.
That being said, let’s work backwards, as yesterday was “THE BIG REVEAL.”
On June 5, we flew from Phoenix to San Francisco, full of anticipation about what the next week would hold. This was the last time Laine would have to explain to TSA WHY his chest appears as an anomaly on their body scanner when they press the male button prior to a scan. This would be the last 48 hours of wearing the grey tank top style binder that has become a part of him over the past 18 months. This trip would be the end to those painful moments of looking in the mirror and wanting to quickly look away because he was unhappy with what he saw looking back, his body not matching his spirit. On Tuesday June 7, Laine had top surgery scheduled with Dr. Satterwhite, a partner at Brownstein and Crane in Greenbrae, CA, just outside of San Francisco.
We rented a very comfortable studio apartment from a wonderful lady named France. (I highly recommend this location, to anyone looking to stay near Brownstein and Crane/ Greenbrae Surgery Center. The apartment was homey, affordable, comfortable, and France was so sweet and very hospitable. If you Google “Kentfield Haven” you will find the apartment available for rent on VRBO, Air B&B, etc. I will add her personal email address here when I get it from her.)
Monday was the pre-op appointment, which was fairly uneventful but necessary. Dr. Satterwhite took a final look at Laine’s chest, and we were given instructions about surgery and what to expect the following day. We utilized the rest of Monday by taking a ferry from Tiburon into San Francisco, Pier 41. (This made me extremely happy, as I have a slight…and by slight I mean MAJOR…obsession with the city… and with fresh Clam Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.)
Tuesday morning we arrived early for surgery, but ended up waiting about an hour before they began prepping Laine. After three IV sticks, (testosterone has changed his easy to stick veins into tough and complicated which refuse to bleed.) he was hooked up, gowned up and ready to go. They took him into the OR around 9am and surgery began around 930. By 12:30 we were back at the apartment. Yes, you read that correctly, three hours between the time surgery started, surgery was completed, recovery was monitored and we drove home (granted it was a 4 minute drive.) Now the fun began…and by fun I mean battling with the extremely tight, chest compressing binder for one week.
Laine was given Vicoden for pain and Zofran for nausea. Fortunately, he only had very little of the nausea and only needed to take a total of two Zofran. The pain on the other hand, although it wasn’t extreme, it was extremely uncomfortable. At the pre-op appointment and during surgery prep, multiple nurses informed Laine that the compression binder would be the worst part of it all. Due to the fact that Brownstein and Crane doesn’t utilize drains post-surgery, the compression binder works to control swelling and to encourage the body to reabsorb the excess fluids. Think about having your underwear band too tight on your waist, cutting into your flesh, and when you pull it away from the skin the elastic has left a deep, raw impression. Now imagine that starting just above your belly button, and covering your upper torso, up to just under your armpits. Feels good huh?
The week went fairly smooth, we hung out in the apartment for a good portion of the time (Grey’s Anatomy marathon helped pass the time) and we did manage to get out a bit for a change of scenery. One day we went to a small town, two screen movie theater which was neat compared to our massive AMC and Harkins we have here locally. Both Saturday and Sunday we were able to meet up with two different sets of friends for lunch. It was wonderful to get to meet people I have only seen though Facebook, women that Laine introduced me to. Both sets of women being amazing couples who I hope to get to know better with time and visit with again soon.
Sunday morning, we woke up looking forward to the final countdown of the last 24 hours of the compression binder. Our excitement quickly turned to heartache when we checked breaking news on our phones (a normal daily routine for us). We turned on the TV to get caught up on the early morning happenings in Orlando. I have many thoughts and words about the tragedy in Orlando, but that is one of those things which deserves its OWN post in the near future. It should not simply be thrown into the mix and quickly breezed over. I will leave it simple here, and ask you to return to read about our reactions and emotions later, however it was a key turning point (of emotions) for the week, so I needed to be sure it was included in the story of our surgery experience.
Monday finally arrived and after packing our suitcases and loading the car, we headed to see Dr. Satterwhite for the post-op appointment. This time we entered the exam room excited and anxious. In just a few minutes we would see what Laine has waited a lifetime for, a male chest. Kate (the nurse, who is super sweet I might add) came in and began to remove the binder and dressings. (At this point I was slightly afraid Laine might fall in love with Kate right then and there, merely because she removed that binder and he could breathe again.) J
As the gauze was pulled away from his chest, I was intrigued with what was being revealed underneath. I even got up off my chair and went over for a closer look. Kate removed the stitches around the nipples and explained to us that the nipples (which had been created from Laine’s original nipples, shaved down from original size to create a male nipple) would take 2-3 weeks to heal. During surgery a natural scab is created out of a piece of Laine’s skin, placed over the recreated nipple. Bacitracin is applied twice a day and the nipples are then covered with a gauze square. Eventually this “scab” will peel off and his nipples will be healed. When Kate finished up she told us Dr. Satterwhite would be in shortly to check the incisions and she left the room. I looked at Laine and asked him how he felt. At this moment, we both teared up and emotions overflowed. We managed to pull it together before Dr. Satterwhite entered the room.
We were told the tape covering the incisions which follow a very natural pec muscle line, would naturally fall off over the next two weeks. We were taught how to apply the ointment and dress the nipples. We were given after care instructions and reminders of limitations for the next few weeks. And then we were sent on our way. Laine stepping out into the world for the first time with his new male chest.
We returned home that evening, surviving an eventful afternoon of flights being delayed, rearranged and rerouted from a nonstop flight (SFO to PHX) to a flight which included changing planes in San Diego. After 9 days away, we were glad to be home and it was refreshing to sleep in our own bed, even if it did mean the dogs would wake us up at 5am and life would resume right where we had left off the week prior. The only difference, now when Laine looks in the mirror, he no longer has to hide from himself.
As a side note, I just wanted to add, that anyone who may be considering using Dr. Satterwhite at Brownstein and Crane as your surgeon…do it! He lives up to the reviews. He does amazing work. He has a positive personality and I’m fairly certain that man NEVER stops smiling. The office staff is friendly, respectful and well trained regarding the trans* community. The Greenbrae Surgery Center was wonderful as well. They are literally in the same building as Dr. Satterwhite’s office which is super convenient. The recovery nurses were great and we didn’t meet a single staff member we didn’t like. So if you are considering top surgery, we highly recommend Dr. Thomas Satterwhite at Brownstein and Crane