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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Finding Frank Goldberg

 

Frank GoldbergI have no idea why I didn’t think of this before. I think the mangy gerbil in her rusty wheel that powers my brain finally pooped out on diet of complete and utter crap I’ve been feeding her for the past 2 weeks. It occurred to me while driving to Burger King to try the new Big Mac rip-off (freakishly gross by the way) that the power of the blogosphere can actually be used for something other than smarmy self-indulgent ramblings. I know, right? Who have thunk it. If we can’t use this space to help one of our own, what are we really doing here?

Frank Goldberg is a Buffalo, NY area LGBT activist who went missing last week Monday night and hasn’t been seen since. I’m going to copy and paste the text from the Facebook page (link here) below because it says it much better, and not even a teensy bit in a smarmy self-indulgent way. Just a note – no one is misgendering Frank – she is genderqueer and uses female pronouns:

Our dear sister, Frank Goldberg (given name, Aimee), has been MISSING since Monday evening, December 16, 2013 around 9PM while she was visiting in Buffalo (home for the holidays from Portland, Oregon). If you see her or hear from her or hear of any information, please post here or message us directly at FindFrankGoldberg@gmail.com. We will update here with news as soon as we learn anything. And please keep her and our family in your thoughts and prayers.

At present, the Buffalo police have a detective assigned and the local effort also hired a private investigator. The latter is not meant to reflect poorly on the Buffalo police, whom I don’t want to come to my house and shoot out my tires, but because Frank is an adult and if found, they have legal obligation to pretend they didn’t if that is what Frank wishes. The gumshoe, however, will do what he’s damn well paid to and hopefully bring some measure of comfort to Frank’s family and friends.

At present, there are multiple theories out there. Frank is in a dark place and went off the grid. Frank did the unthinkable and hasn’t been discovered yet. Frank is hitching back to the west coast where she hails from. Frank is the victim of foul play. In any case, there have been no sightings, no clues, and hope is beginning to dim that we will see Frank alive and well again.

I’m asking all of you, people who read my blog for some reason, to take a look at the picture and try to recall if you have seen Frank in the past 2 weeks. I’m also politely, but firmly, asking my sister and brother bloggers to repost this in the hopes that the information circles the globe a few dozen times. We have the power to put this information out into the world where so many people will see it.

If you have information, or by some miracle happen to be Frank, I’m urging you to please contact the email address above. You may also contact me and I guarantee your anonymity if you need that to speak up.

Have Dilator, Will Travel… GRS Journey Concluded

TSAEver wake up in the morning and suddenly realize, “Hey! Did I just have my original genitals replaced with other very different genitals? Holy shit!” Actually, some of you probably have. Today we are going to conclude my first ever six post story on this blog, up from the previous record of a one post story. Last we left me, I agreed with great trepidation to skip town 3 days earlier than medically advisable. We’ll get to that in a second; the opening question deserves a bit of time.

I’ve spoken to other post-op ladies, and it’s apparently not uncommon for one to emerge from surgery and be slammed with a “oh my God, what have I done?” feeling. Close, but not quite. From the time I woke up to present, 8 weeks later, never once did I wish I had the old meat and veggies back down there. I did, however, get that moment of slightly panicked breathlessness. Have nothing but time to think, I thought. It wasn’t a feeling of regret or worry. It was a feeling have having locked in to something big and life altering. It was the same attack of the willies as signing the first mortgage, saying “I do”, and most of all, bringing a crying baby home from the hospital knowing there are no backsies on that one. Until the surgery, I had a foot in both camps. Sure, I was living female, but it wouldn’t take a whole lot of effort to swap back and being one of the boys again. The gender fluidity I had since self awareness was gone for good. I picked a side and took it all the way. It’s all good. I chose wisely. You’re going to hear me roar.

My second McGinn appointment went very smooth for the most part. My gigantic bag was packed in the trunk and I cautioned my father and brother in laws not to say anything about me booking out early. I saw both Heather and Dr. McGinn briefly. “Your vagina didn’t fall out or anything, did it?” Na. “Looks good! We now permit you to go for dinner if you wish, but no walking around or shopping or anything. You are leaving Saturday, yes?” Absolutely on all counts. I emerged and my father in law broke into loud conversation as I awaited my paperwork and surgical certificate. “Did she say it was OK for you to fly today?”  My frantic arm waving and ‘shut the fuck up’ gesturing didn’t deter him a lick. I don’t know if they heard, and didn’t ask. I was free.

At the Philly airport I learned again why bringing a suitcase large enough to smuggle Louie Anderson is not such a hot idea. “Gotta pull some stuff out hun, or I gotta charge you another $90”. In pain and flummoxed by the idea of what to abandon to lose 9 pounds, I started to cry and explained that I just had surgery. The kind woman took my bag without another word and charged me nothing, though she did slap a ‘whoa, this motha’ is heavy!’ sticker on it.  Though I’m not saying crying to manipulate a situation has never once been practiced in the big wide world, I can say that sometimes it just happens, and if some good comes of it, so be it.

Going through the security line, I wondered how they were going to react to the fact that I had 2 dilators in my purse, and found out. I waited nervously, saw them stop the belt when my purse was mid scan, call someone over, then pulled me aside to say they had to scan it again. Oh, here we go. Tired of viewing the electronic image of what appeared to be two dildos, they took me over to the table and asked if they could look inside because, “we just need to see something.” They pulled out the felt pouch that housed them and I immediately went into a nervous talking jag and compressed the whole story of my GRS and need to dilate into a 30 second high speed spiel. The female guard looked at me blankly, put them back, and sent me on my way. To celebrate, I grabbed a slice from Sbarro and upgraded to get the garlic knot with it. They were fantastic.

The flight was uneventful, though turbulent, and I was very pleased to find that my vagina did not need to be popped like my ears on the descent. I was in the window seat and that could have been very awkward, especially for my seatmate who was trying his damndest to pretend I took I different flight instead. I wasn’t exactly looking my best. The plane landed at the furthest possible gate at the Buffalo airport, which frankly, isn’t really all that far unless you are hobbling with loins on fire. Exiting security I found my spouse waiting for me, and couldn’t have been gladder to be home.

In coming posts, I’ll explain the recovery process, go into detail how dilation often feels like being screwed by Iron Man with his armor still on, and present some handy tips and hints for those of you contemplating this journey. Hopefully you will listen better than I did.

Frankenpussy…Yeah, Not a Halloween Post… GRS Journey cont…

FrankenpussyWe last left our poorly planned protagonist a weepy pee and blood covered mess attempting to make it through the day and not foul up the quaint little bedroom too badly. I recalled the Billy Joel classic, “These are the Times to Remember” and decided he definitely didn’t mean this, but decided to capture them anyway in writing in order to provide ample fodder for future embarrassment. Sunday, after my family left, was a nightmare of splitting headaches chased with Vicodin that only seemed to exacerbate the problem. Why could they not have just given me some morphine to take home? Was that too much to ask?

On Monday I had my first follow up with Dr. McGinn and my spouse’s father and brother kindly drove in from Jersey to take me there. Her office set up seems designed to enhance feeling of awkwardness for both her and her patients. The waiting area is the hallway between her office and the examination room, that requires her to scooch by everyone to go from one to the other. Furtive side-glance acknowledgement exists between you, but you both understand it’s not the time to talk, even though you really want to. Personally, I would have removed some ceiling tiles to crawl above, dropping down in front of the exposed patient like Batgirl. It’s not like she can really get any cooler, but that move alone would double her patient load.

In the mean time, I got to chat with Debbi, who was lovely to deal with in completing my 93 point pre-surgical checklist, and frankly, it was a treat. When my time finally came, I got to see Heather first, who we last encountered giving me the ‘here is everything that might go horribly wrong’ spiel right before they put me out. As she removed my bandages, I found why sitting up felt like I was perched on a WW1 German helmet sewn between my thighs, because the packing was actually sutured on. Next she removed the internal packing material, seeming to endlessly pull a thin strip of batting out like a magician with scarves. I imagined a tiny pissed off mummy in there spinning around as he’s being unexpectedly denuded. I’m not 100% there isn’t, and that he’s armed with a sharp little sword he likes to jab about when agitated.

“When I take this off, it’s going to feel like you are going to pee all over me, but don’t worry, you aren’t.” Catheter removal is so much fun, and she was right; I was sure I was going to pee in her face and then we would have this horrible thing between us forcing me to flee and never come back. Luckily she was right on the money. “Want to take a look?” Hells, yeah I did! Well, it sure wasn’t pretty. Not by a long shot. First of all, holy Bride of Frankenstein with all the angry looking stitches! I felt my neck for bolts just in case, and Heather assured me everything looked good. There was also quite a bit of swelling, and the vaginal opening was stretched open so far it looked like I just serviced the starting lineup of the Buffalo Bills. “That’s just from the packing. It will close on its own and in a few months, no one but your gynecologist will be able to tell the difference.” While no colorful little butterflies came wafting out, I was grateful that no bats did either.

With my feet propped up in the stirrups, Heather showed me how to dilate. I have to say, this whole process from start to dilation initiation really destroyed any body consciousness and squeamishness I used to have. It’s impossible to feel modest when someone is assisting you in sticking a purple plastic dildo up your vag. Dr. McGinn finally joined us and I was thrilled that she was now allowed to admit I existed. She expressed her pleasure on how well the surgery went, and pronounced the hot mess between my legs as looking just damn tootin’ fine. She didn’t say that, but I translated from medical speak. “Make sure you dilate five times a day, even if it really hurts.” I promised I would, though once again discounted the possibility of it actually hurting. I never learn, do I? That’ll get its own post.

The next couple of days became very routine. Wake. Dilate. Eat breakfast. Sit in chair till it hurts. Dilate. Lay in bed till it hurts. Go back to chair. Dilate. Call people. Any people. Seriously, I’ll talk to anyone at this point. Eat. Dilate. Open daily gift (sent with love from Sandy and Tricia).  Eat candy. Lots of candy. Dilate. Fall into uneasy sleep.

By Tuesday night I was about fed up with this schtick. I called my spouse and she suggested heresy. “Why don’t you just fly home after your Thursday appointment?” I could not believe what she was suggesting. I’m supposed to be here until Saturday! What if Dr. McGinn finds out? Anyone who knows me well should be very surprised by this; I’m not exactly known for being a rule follower. Dear lord, what the hell happened to me? What’s she going to do? Find an unused penis and stick it back on me? “So? You’re miserable and you can’t tell me you can’t rest up and dilate just as well at home.” The spell of medical compliance was broken. Book me a ticket. I’m coming home.

Next time in the thrilling conclusion of a tale too long told: McGinn again; why I hate to fly; and the enormity of swapping out one’s genitals .

Yeah, Who Recommended Surgical Recovery in a B&B?… GRS continued…

B&BYou know those Funniest Home Videos, the kind that never win, that feature a douchebag trying to skateboard down a railing and ends up rupturing a testicle?  Through no fault of my driver, the ride to the B&B felt like that. Last we checked in, I was ousted from the hospital like so much riff-raff even though I was under medical orders not to travel and in need of constant care. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick up on this before, but there seems to be a little oopsie in an otherwise flawless treatment plan. Be that as it may, it was a long ride once off the interstate and navigating winding bumpy roads. My poor aunt was so upset every time we hit a bump that I didn’t feel right letting loose the blood curdling screams building in the back of my throat.

We arrived after dark at the Fox and Hound, an absolutely charming place, and the innkeeper who checked me in was gentleman enough to lug my ginormous bag up the steep narrow staircase. I was half hoping he’d lug my sore ass up there as well, but I think he decided I was a two-man lift after eyeing my generous frame. I really need to lose a few pounds if I ever want to be lifted like Baby in ‘Dirty Dancing’. The room was very lovely with a nice bed, little sitting area by the bay windows, and some old timey looking furniture. I could not imagine a better place to spend a romantic fall weekend, or a worse place to lurch around bleeding everywhere. As I could not get out of bed without executing a cumbersome set of maneuvers meant for someone of much greater flexibility, my mom turned over a trash can for me to use as a bedside table and hand grip. They left me alone to get me some groceries and as I lay there taking in my environs, I decided I was well and truly fucked.

Here’s the deal. Nearly all the literature and advice on GRS talks about ‘you and your companion’ in regards to the post surgery recovery. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the notion of asking anyone to take 2 precious weeks out of their life and sit with a cranky convalescent. Besides, I am Mighty Michelle and need none of this “help” they so speak of. Understanding I was going to be stuck in this second floor room, barely able to move, and in considerable pain somehow managed to find the chink in my armor. My best effort to prop myself up with pillows left my chin poking into my breast. It’s not as comfortable as it sounds. I kept on a brave face while they put away my supplies, but broke into tears when they were saying their goodnights to head back to the hotel near the hospital.

“What’s wrong?” Nothing. Just a long day. Very sore and all that. Really, I’m… ok….sniff. Ugh, this was so not me, but I was just a little freaked out. What if I couldn’t get out of bed? What if I started bleeding uncontrollably? What if a fire started and finally did away with this rickety old place and the New Hope fire department got a look and me and decided to let nature take its course? Every time I thought of one of these things, my little private pity-party kicked into high gear and the water works restarted. Get a grip on it chica. That’s what I call myself when trying to be mentally tough. Just blame it on the pain meds. They probably would have stayed, but both of them looked bone tired so I managed to put on a chipper face and sent them off to get some sleep. The rest of the night was less fun.

In the wee hours of the morning I had to pee. Getting out of bed, I dumped over my ‘waste basket turned night stand’ along with the mostly full open Ensure sitting atop it. I cleaned up best I could with my foot and a wad of paper towels I threw down. I really didn’t want to get hollered at by the innkeeper, and I for sure didn’t want anyone thinking the chocolate drink was something else. I ambled into the bathroom feeling the unholy fire down below and an angry thunderstorm in my tummy. I won’t go into details, but it was unpleasant. Next thing I knew, part of my surgical packing was on the bathroom floor after falling from between my legs and bouncing off the toilet seat. I had no clue what was really going on down there, so I didn’t know if this was critical stuff or not, but didn’t want to put it back after it was dropped wet side down. I freely admit I turned into a sniveling sobbing mess as I tried to approximate the shape of the packing out of two maxi-pads and stuffed it in where I thought it should go. It was a long night of broken sleep, anguished trips to the bathroom, and many snotty tears.

In the morning, things looked a little bit brighter, mainly because the sun was coming through the window. The innkeeper was savvy enough to understand I had no intention of trying to make it down the stairs to sample their award winning breakfast. I’m also sure they preferred I keep my bloody, smelly self away from the guests who were there for more jaunty reasons, and I can’t blame them. They brought me up a lovely frittata, crisp bacon, toast, a fruit cup and hot tea. Unfortunately I had to eat standing up because I couldn’t figure out how to get under the service tray without dumping everything on the bed. Still though, it was mighty sweet. Every outlook is brighter better with bacon.

Less sweet was the fact that my catheter seemed to have sprung a leak. Though most medical catheters go to a bag that gets conveniently dumped from time to time, this one consisted of a taupe hose emerging from my bandaged loins and capped by a triangular shaped plug. Draining it required standing above the toilet, freeing the plug, waiting for the last few drops to lazily drip out, shaking, then tucking it back in. This all seemed so familiar but I simply couldn’t place it. Anyway, while the ironically flesh colored hose was draining, I couldn’t help but notice that a dampness was creeping down my leg. Just great; like I didn’t feel disgusting enough already. I called Dr. McGinn who impressively picked up on the second ring. Apparently this was common and I should just pee more often. I think I caught her eating dinner.

The best and worst part of this day was a visit from my spouse, son, and mother in law. For a lovely afternoon and evening, I felt loved and embraced. They stocked me up with even more goodies, and I got a wonderful hour alone with my son, who chose to spend the time with Maddy by playing 926 consecutive games of ‘rock-paper-scissors’. I never felt so happy. The bad part, however, was that they had just driven in from Buffalo for the day and were returning home in the morning leaving me alone in my exile for whole additional week. I really should have thought this through a little better.

In our next thrilling episode: The bandages come off, dilation initiation, and Frankenpussy.

Hellooo Nurse! … GRS continued…

NurseOK, before I continue on my thrilling tale of my surgical experience, I need to set the record straight. It seems some think that I had some kind of unusual terrible experience. This is not at all what I’m trying to say. I don’t do a lot of whiney “oh heavens, cry for me” type posts, and when I do, you will know about it. You’ll bawl like a kid who dropped his chocolate twisty cone into a pile of dog poop. At least with vanilla you can pick the gross bits off if you like. I am, however, trying to set realistic expectations so no one has a mental picture of the bandages coming off and pretty little butterflies fluttering out of there. As for the title of this post, your geek cred is hereby revoked if you don’t remember the Animaniacs.

Last we left off, I awoke from surgery with a terrible sore throat and lots of well wishers calling me. I love them all dearly, but was praying for some kind of disaster to take out the cell towers and let me suck tiny ice chips in peace. For the first 2 days I was not allowed to even sit up, so had to find ways to entertain myself. I figured out the exact timing on the morphine pump and tried to hit it the very second it turned back on. If I jumped the gun, I got a heartbreaking ‘ur-uh’ sound, but practice got me good enough to hit that sweet ‘bleep’ every time. Three times in a row, and it would put me to sleep for up to 20 minutes. After 48 hours of this, I was incredibly tired. There was a TV, but it was one of those LCD dealies that only works right when you are looking right at it. Laying on my back, I could only look up and to the left, making all the images a negative view. I can’t believe fucking ‘Charmed’ is still on like 3 times a day.

Many people describe waking up for surgery and saying it was the happiest they ever felt. I love the idea of that, but I have to be honest here; it wasn’t the happiest I ever felt. I was much happier the day my son was born, the day I got married, and really even the time two bags of cheddar and sour cream Ruffles fell from the vending machine. I was very happy it was done, and felt a sense of calm relief, but in terms of feeling different, it was impossible to tell yet. For all I knew it was just a big gag and someone worked me over with a crowbar for a bit, then packed the area with a shitload of ice and bandages. Besides, I always looked at this operation as a means to achieve future happiness, rather than being the answer to all my prayers in and of itself. It’s like new car elation. At the beginning it seems very exciting, but eventually the thrill of going to work and home wears off. It’s the potential of taking that epic road trip or Wallyworld vacation that makes it all worthwhile.

On Thursday I experienced vast improvements. I was finally given food in the form of the ‘not so clear’ liquid diet. Hot tea, milk, juice, weird tasting “vanilla” ice cream, and something just plain nasty labeled ‘strained cream soup’ that I think was meant for toddlers as it tasted like a mixture of paste and boogers. Ironically, after all my aching and griping, I was no longer hungry. They also took me off of my sweet, sweet morphine pump and replaced it with stupid Vicodin. I was finally allowed to sit up and hate ‘Charmed’ from a better view. Best of all, my mom and aunt finally arrived after being lost in the wilds of Pennsyltucky for many hours, fastidiously following the directions of a malevolently erroneous GPS that they borrowed from my sister. I warned her not to use it to scrape ice off her boots, but whatever.

The nurse gave me fair warning early on that they were expecting me to attempt getting out of bed and standing later on that day. I made myself ready. Prior experience with nursing staff taught me that once a doctor, even one that didn’t see you in person, decided you were ready for something, it was going to happen. The easy way is to do whatever is necessary to comply and maintain a friendly, positive relationship with the staff. The hard way is to listen to your body and offer complaint or resistance and invite irascible prodding with escalating urgency. I took the easy way, and even though it felt like I was straddling red hot iron saw horse. I grit my teeth, rolled over, and stood on shaky feet. “Do you think you can take a few steps for me?” You bet your ass I can! My call button was always answered immediately when that damn machine started its beeping again. This is definitely going on the list of hints and tips I’m putting together. Work with the nurses and life is sweet.

I received a trans visitor not long after my first walk. Cynthia popped in to say hello and it took me a day and a half to figure out that she wasn’t a patient, even though she probably told me. I was super impressed that she was in real person clothes and walking around unassisted. I later found that her wife was the one who was Dr. McGinn’s other patient of the week. There is something very heartwarming in encountering one of your own in challenging situations, though I felt terrible that her wife was having a harder time getting up and probably getting a bit more of the pissed off nurse routine that I was so much trying to avoid. I got a little something that maybe there was some underlying irritation that I was zipping up and down the corridor like some fancy pants show off, but even so, she could not have been sweeter.

Friday came and they were ready to give me the boot, and in grand hospital tradition, at some undisclosed time. I truly doubt our military keeps the timing of critical operations under wraps half so well as hospitals. Could be this morning, could be after lunch, could be tonight, tomorrow, next month, or never. Who really knows? I was given my first solid breakfast and devoured it. I’d say the bacon was the best I’d ever had, but I say that about every piece of bacon I cram in my pie hole. At the specified time, my mom and aunt were ready and waiting. A few hours later, I managed to get myself dressed and was wheeled down, along with my humongous suitcase (Really? You aren’t going to move that yourself. No. ~ Dr. McGinn), to my aunt’s car. Several acrobatic moves later, I was seated uncomfortably in the passenger seat on my donut pillow and off to the bed and breakfast.

Coming soon, or when I get around to it: Why a donut pillow does jack shit on a bumpy road; the worst night; I cry; and why a B&B is a gorgeous and insanely ill advised place to try to recover in.

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