Jahn Westbrook

by jahn westbrook

I recorded the week of my surgery, each day, starting with the day of, capturing the essence and emotions of my journey. Aptly titled, these are images and feelings and sensations that I had each day, from the of surgery, through my 6 days post-surgery.

Wednesday 7/22 –SURGERY DAY

Showered. Arrive at Hospital at 6:00a for admission… and NO COFFEE! 7:30a curtain call. Stuffed into a NASA inspired surgical gown, fitted with tubes and escutcheons. Hand over jewelry to my girlfriend for protection. Love her! Pre-op picture. Nurses were amazing. All three of them. Seemed like there were an endless supply of nurses lurking just outside the sliding door. Anesthesiologist comes in, looking too young and with an endless supply of yuk-yuk animal jokes. None worth remembering…sorry E-. Stage one of a sleepy solution flowing through me. We’re off! Wheeled down an endlessly winding hallway to the surgical theater. I meet my surgical team. Strapped in crucifix position. I notice no clock. Increasingly groggy. Am I speaking??? Room gets brighter, washed out. I don’t remember my last image.

Missing time

Awaken in recovery, or so I’m told. Post-op picture.

Now in my own room. Wiped out from such a exhausting morning. Nasal oxygen tube inserted. Throat irritated from intubation. A collection of tubes protruding from my groin area. All kinds of tape and gauze embracing my groin area. Thanx to Morphine and her friend Percocet, no form of pain. Side effects -very real constipation. A few short hours after anesthesia fades, post my status –SHE’S A GIRL!- to those who matter, my nearly 40 friends and family on facebook. Celebrity. Love to all and doing well. OMG!, this is real!

Thursday 7/23 –DAY ONE POST

An impossible sleepless night. I meet and chat with all my various shift nurses, take my vitals, give me pills and smiles and reassurance.. Low blood pressure, for them, I’m fine I say, more or less normal for me. Mom and girlfriend sharing my private room. I watch them sleep, so comforting that they are here with me. Appetite returned, not surprising from not eating in over 48 hours. What goes in, isn’t coming out. (Waste removal does not return for another 4 days- though I jump ahead). Every nurse, on every shift, of every day attending my recovery were AMAZING! Ice bags. Playing with the bed controls, ever in search of finding a “comfortable” position. Lasts only a moment than take up the search anew. Ceased morphine, only Motrin. I feel no pain. My bracelet is scanned more times than a family of 4, at an amusement park. Laughter with family and nursing staff. Some form of L&O marathon as a boredom suppressant. Meet my surgeon in the evening. Giant smiles and assurance of a beautiful result. She is amazing! Mom and girlfriend leave for the night, silence of sorts. Reminisce. Try reading “City Lights” poetry anthology. Sleep.


Better night sleep. Constipation getting more uncomfortable. Pain not apparent, still at a 1, really. Nursing staff FANTASTIC! They love to scan my bracelet. Time to venture out into the hallway, beyond the veil of my room’s curtain and door. Foley bag an anchor to bare, ease off the bed like a gazelle. I rotate into a sitting position, a boulder coming to rest. Lean forward and on to my feet like a muppet. First step, notable. I can do this. Make it 2 laps(felt like a couple miles) around the square hospital hallway. Hours later, up and around again, out for about 20 minutes, big smiles. Effects of Morphine and Percocet not wearing off. Surgeon visits again, happy with my recovery, going home tomorrow. Constipation could last up to 4 more days –Gawd, just flush me with Calgon, please. Girlfriend and I take a final romantic stroll around and through the surgical floor, 30 minutes later return to room. Night time and off to ring in the early morning hours in delightful discomfort.


Mixed emotions. Am I truly going back to my hotel? Will the JP(Jackson-Pratt) tube hurt coming out? What if I start bleeding? Sutures going to pull out? Infection? Can mom and girlfriend really handle the pending crisis? What if I never use the bathroom again? Last day nurse M- comes in for my morning bracelet scan and dispensary of pills. I’m only taking Motrin, no serious pain killers, I’m strong I’m told.

Girlfriend and I walk many figure-8 laps around the floor. Surgeon arrives and pulls out the JP tube, burns a bit, not painful. Will the hole close up?!?! Relax, yes, it will. Emotional sendoff with uber pleasant nursing staff. Goody bag of pads, ointment, swabs, latex-free gloves(size L), Victoria’s Secret panties…

At least I’m in civilian clothes –comfortable skirt and easy sleeveless top. Utilize my neck pillow, come donut, for sitting. Back at hotel. Stand or lie down? What is that adage about 2 evils? Donut moderately eases discomfort of sitting, for minutes at a time. I feel like a sand dune, constantly adjusting. Romantic strolls with girlfriend around hotel grounds, travel sized Foley bag strapped to leg. Gorgeous San Franciscan late July weather. Eat while standing…this could be a thing. Off to bed, hanger under mattress to hang multi-gallon size, overnight Foley bag, mom –genius. Drift into Motrin sleep.

Sunday 7/26 –Relief

Sleep measured in hour blocks. Girlfriend or Mom emptying my multi-gallon size, overnight Foley bag throughout night; bless them. Time for Motrin, Colace, antibiotic, other scripts. Packing –both medical and body manufactured- increasing discomfort. Surgical packing pressing in all kinds of places in my pelvic area. Not possible to be comfortable for more than a few minutes. Crossword puzzle. Coffee. And then it happens…and happens…and happens!!! Boredom suppressant hovers around some crime or law show of varying names, with varying stars. Suggestion: install a VPN on your laptop to surf internet more safely, don’t trust the open hotel wifi. Make our pilgrimage to the local exterior strip mall for meal supplies, walk the length and back. Over did it. Starbuck’ Frappuccino –WORTH IT. More and more ice on crotch. Will swelling ever go down? Why are there so many rainbow colors spreading throughout my groin??? My body shouldn’t be those colors. Girlfriend –normal, signs of healing. Phew! More walks around the hotel grounds. Bedtime.

Monday 7/27 –Ditto-ish

Sleep still measured in hour blocks. Mom or Girlfriend emptying my multi-gallon size, overnight Foley bag; bless them. Time for Motrin, antibiotic, other scripts. Surgical packing pressing in all kinds of old and new places in my pelvic area, increasingly uncomfortable. Comfortable positions measured in minutes. Stand lots, feet want to go on strike; if only for some relief. Strap on the portable, 3oz Foley bag. Crossword puzzle. Coffee. Empty bag. Walk to breakfast. Empty bag. Boredom suppressant still some crime or law show of varying names, with varying stars. Empty bag. Confirm post-op for tomorrow. Anxiety building. Empty bag. Numerous hotel ground’s walks. Empty bag….change to the multi-gallon size, overnight Foley bag.

Tuesday 7/28 –Easter Egg Colors

Slept well, for first time in days. Mom or Girlfriend empty my multi-gallon size, overnight Foley bag; bless them. Time for Motrin, antibiotic, other scripts. Strap on the portable, 3oz Foley bag. Surgical packing finding unexplored places to press in my pelvic area, increasingly uncomfortable. Comfortable positions measured in minutes. Neck pillow/butt donut flattening from over abuse, er, use.

Post-op surgeon’s office visit. Vitals are good. Office staff are beautifully attentive. Nervously anticipating the removal of the Foley tube(GONNA HURT!?!?) Packing removal(HURT?? TICKLE?? BLEND??). Moment of truth, focus on music in background(a Hawaiian singer with an angelic voice). Deflate balloon(WHAT?!?!?). Pull out Foley tube –stings! Over in a moment though. Packing next. Pincers, glinting silver metal, glide in…and in…and in(will they ever stop?) my newly created genitalia. How big is my…oh, wait…. Tickles? Feeling not unpleasant. Tease out a tail of packing. Eyes closed, don’t want to look at the magician’s trick taking place in my crotch. Feels unusual. Event is over, no brass band. More comfortable sitting already. Picture time. Sent to surgeon –“Nice Easter Egg Colors” she replies. Is that a compliment? Apparently yes.

Dilation. Di-what??? So soon after removing stuffing, I need to stuff THAT inside me?!?! A solid hunk of molded plastic, medical device…

  • Tip down…
  • Under pubis…
  • Straighten out…
  • Apply gentle pressure…
  • Gentle twist…
  • Insert up to the penultimate white dot.

Where is that IKEA cartoon instruction guy?

Do this 3 times a day for 15 minutes! All I can foresee are the sutures unraveling like a sweater. Back at hotel and on my own, sorta. Sheet like a tent over my legs. Girlfriend cheering me on(don’t make me laugh). My mom a few feet away, consider embarrassment as a rational fear in this moment. Moms should never be around while their trans-daughters are dilating. Forty-five minutes total time for a fifteen minute exercise. SHOWERED!!!(1st shower in 7 days!!!) Bathrobe, turbie twist, and slippers. Enjoy sitting on couch, in relative comfort, for the first time in a week. Big smiles.

There was tremendous anticipation leading up to my surgery. Months of preparation, letters, clearance, travel arrangements, time off from work, et cetera. Then there was the thrill of finding out, about 24 hours prior to being admitted, that I might not be able to have surgery because of some test result(which was previously noted and cleared, BTW). The breakdown I had on the Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, in San Francisco, when I was told. The tense car ride back to the hospital for additional blood work. Being cleared, then the marathon day before drinking this vile, bowel cleaning substance which anchored me to the bathroom….

Then, 19 days later, finally home and among familiar surroundings, hours of walks around the neighborhood, exploring my new anatomy, reveling in the silhouette of my body, loving how my clothes finally ‘fit’. My surgeon and her entire staff were amazing! They were patient, caring, and kind. They called me at 6-weeks and 12-weeks post op to follow up on my recovery. They answered everyone of my questions. A simple thank you wasn’t enough, so I painted this for their office:

Everybody’s journey is unique, and mine is just one of many. If any of our readers have gone through GRS, and are willing to share their experience, please comment below.

mir, irini, peace, amn,



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