Sunday, 29 June 2008

Meeting a surgeon to discuss my gender reassignment surgery

Friday another land mark in my journey:-

My Private consultation with the surgeon James Bellringer:-

(Please note some of this story is a little graphical in detail so please use your discretion if you wish to read on)

I had my consultation at Parkside private hospital with James Bellringer at 7 o'clock on Friday 27th June. This gave me time to prepare in the morning for a day I had always dreamed of but never thought would ever happen. Over & over in my head went all the questions I needed to ask him. The morning was taken up by excessive faffing about & costume changes. I wanted to create the right first impression. I am more comfortable in casual clothes, more often jeans or a simple skirt & a nice blouse. Today I for some reason wanted to make a statement & went for a more business look. I went for a navy blue mid calf length pencil skirt. I felt really good by the time all my warpaint was on & I was ready to go.

It was a welcome change to be traveling to London by train all dolled up. Curiously I felt really conscious of being one of the few females wearing a skirt as I walked through Waterloo station. They all had more sense & were all more practically dressed. Me, I am like the oldest teenage girl in the world, with less attitude due to old age! So much is new to me. Unlike some teenagers perhaps I am quite happy to admit I know nothing. My choice was not terribly practical as it was quite hobbling & restricted my steps. I wrote a mental note to myself if you want to feel good about yourself sometimes you have to suffer for your art. I had at least gone for fairly sensible shoes. Mainly because I feel I am too tall already & just want to blend in & be accepted. As a a girl on a mission today, that was not going to be a problem. For some one who has had life long self esteem issues I felt so happy, so alive. My God the emotions were welling up in me & there were several hours still to go to my appointment.

I met up with my counsellor at her home in Fulham & we went through all the questions I needed to ask. She helped to relax my nerves & told me there would be nothing to worry about. The taxi picked us up at 5.45 on the dot. The trip was a bit of a blur. I had been excited going to see the facial surgeons for consultations but this was something far more meaningful. Its not very often a person gets a chance to make their dreams come true. At the same time there was the reality that yes this is big surgery & vital to me but it is but another part of my journey. Some people born with my condition feel the need to have this surgery a.s.a.p. & hate that area of their body with a vengeance. It distresses me & fills me with great sadness but to me it is just a defect I was born with that needs correcting. I am not sure if that makes sense & I would probably be flamed if I dared say that on a TS forum.

The hospital looked first class. Spotless & very professional. James Bellringer the surgeon/magician/god was a complete gentlemen. He does both private GRS & through the NHS & is one of the surgeons used by the world famous Charring Cross Hospital Gender Unit. The consultation could not have been better. He was really friendly, helpful & totally honest. I had been very nervous about the consultation particularly the examination bit for obvious reasons & because of my experiences with health problems associated with my genitals as a child. I could also recall horror story's from the past of a program on the television when I was a young teenager. A lady called Julia Grant & her encounters with psychiatrists & surgeons associated with Charring Cross Hospital gender unit in the 70's, had a lasting effect on me. Ironically one of the bullying psychiatrist's who had been so vile to her was believed to be a closet cross dresser himself. There has thankfully been a whole raft of improvements in both care & attitudes since then.

He reassured me & had a very nice bed side manner. I was borderline regarding the amount of penile tissue available & he would like to keep his options open as to the exact procedure for when he actually does the surgery, once I meet the criteria & establish funding. He clearly has an awful lot of experience doing GRS. He answered all of my many questions honestly & gave me confidence I could trust him to do my surgery. Chance would be a fine thing. Even if I was foolish enough & had the money to get the surgery done quickly I would prefer to wait & meet the criteria & even a little bit on top. I have no doubt I need this surgery but that criteria is there for a reason.

Some of the questions I asked where as follows:-

(please note these answers are as I can best remember them & by no means accurate, just my interpretation, please see website or contact Mr Bellringer for accurate information)

1. How long have you being doing GRS & how many ops have you done?8½ yrs - over 500 ops

2. What are your referral criteria? ie Richard Curtis + who?Psychiatrist with gender expertise via Dr Curtis After one year of RLE

3. What is your waiting list time?Approx 4 months from getting both referrals

4. How long before surgery do I have to stop hormones?6 weeks

5. How many days in hospital?7 days

6. How long does the op last?2 hours

7. Does the cost include extra days if there are complications?Yes

8. Do you use just penile tissue to create a vagina or do you use scrotal tissue too?Either method - depending on the patient’s available skin

9. Will I have full sensation?98% of patients do

10. Do you recommend laser hair removal before surgery?Yes

11. Do I have to pay for follow-up consultations?No

12. What happens if I get a post-op complication after I am discharged?Re-admitted/treated as required - no extra charge

13. Can I see post-op photographs?Yes - on website

14. Can I have breast augmentation done at the same time?No - because of risk of infection

15. Who performs that surgery?N/A

16. Who teaches me how to dilate?Either surgeon or specialist Nurse

17. What are the most likely things to go wrong?Urethral narrowing - 3-4%Excessive bleeding - 1%Rectal damage - less than 1%

18. What is your complication rate?See above

19. Do you accept ECR Extra contractual referral for private surgery?YES - same referral criteria as in Q2

This was a very big step for me I was absolutely buzzing with emotion when I came out. Thankfully my counsellor had come with me to take notes & advise me. Back home my dear elderly parents were waiting for news & this was only a consultation. A long way from actually having the surgery. To them they are afraid it will happen tomorrow, bless them. I tried so carefully to explain to them this will take quite some time for me to meet the criteria at least a year & up to to 2-3 years to happen. I reluctantly waited another hour to come down from the clouds before phoning my Mum. It is another uplifting part of my journey but to them, it sadly is in the case of my poor Dad, a tragic case of yet more confirmation of the death of his son. This is so unfair, the same person is going nowhere, I will still be me only much happier & at peace but i can understand their feelings.

For anyone thinking of going to see Mr Bellringer I can thoroughly recommend a consultation. He has a very good website hope this humble story might be of help to those of us considering making this part of the journey & not to graphic for my other kind friends.

The tube trains were full of Wimbledon tennis fans on their ways home & a really happy dopey grinning Debbie.

All those tennis fans made me think of a rather naughty joke that I could just not stop smiling about, which has since been deleted from here, for reasons of good taste & decorrum! I'm a ladeey you know! Lol

Best Wishes
Love Debbie


Anonymous said...

It's great reading your posts Debbie.
I alternately : smiled, nodded in agreement, read and re-read a section, and empathised with so much.
esp. the "just a defect to be corrected bit".
Sure, it will take time, but you're preparing the way...brilliantly. And in the meantime, enjoying more and more of life's experiences...bad tennis jokes aside ! x

Kate Phizackerley said...

So many more steps this week. Life is coming together now.

Kate x

Anji said...

I hope your parents coped okay with the latest. I followed the link and was amazed by the pictures. these doctors are so talented, I wonder if they realise the difference they are making to so many (500) women. Do you know how long if will be before you are ready for surgery?

LucyTolliday said...

After reading about your day I'm happy for you, so no wonder your in the clouds.

Anji said...

I hope you are okay as I see you haven't posted for a while, perhaps as Lucytolliday says you are still up in the clouds!

Debbie K said...

Thank you everyone for your kind words.

Dear Nicky
I think I must have been a bit hyper when I posted that bad joke, sorry.

Dear Kate
Life is coming together but I still cannot escape the rollercoaster ride of emotions & find that peace I am aiming for.
I guess that's all part & parcel of living life to the full.

Dear Anji
Thank you so much for your concern hun. I am so sorry my absence from posting alarmed you. I have been worrying about a number of our online friends recently for exactly the same reason.

My parents have amazed me with the way they have coped with the reality of me needing this surgery.
It must be so hard for them but they are bravely not showing those concerns to me, at the moment.

My surgery will be a minimum of 1 year living full time as a female. I hope it will be sometime towards the middle part of 2009. That may change depending on funding. Any longer than 2 years & it will probably start to have a very detrimental effect of my health.

Hi Lucy
Welcome to my blog. I have been floating in the clouds but recent events have bought me back to earth. It was so lovely being so high up while it lasted. A whole different feeling to anything I have ever experienced before. How I wish all my friends could experience those feelings.

Thanks again


Josephine said... warm my heart, you pathfinder, you...

Go get'em girl