Friday, April 30, 2010

It is a Thursday; I get up early (the 2-weeks-post update)

It has been 14 days since surgery. My, how time flies. I'm down to minimal Vicodin use and have been instructed to start on daily Ibuprofen to manage inflammation - this is standard procedure; I'm not entirely sure why it's a good idea to start it on day 14 rather than at any other point, but perhaps the rate of progress will improve even further.

Despite the minimal narcotic intake (two Vicodin halves today), I'm still not feeling functional enough to drive or really handle the idea of getting far out of the house - I piked on my planned craft night partly due to this, and only partly due to the previously documented self-analysis. I have aspirations towards a more active weekend, but much depends on pain management.

There was a Zeppelin flight scheduled for today that was causing me conniptions - on the one hand, simply getting out to Oakland Airport and back would be arduous in my state, not to mention the excitement of the flight itself, but on the other hand... well, it's a Zeppelin flight, isn't it. Guess what I was going to do.

Luckily (?) it was cancelled at the last moment, saving me from what probably would have been a totally worthwhile regression in recovery. This is actually the second time running that this particular event has been rescheduled, but as Jon pointed out, they're probably wise to be sensitive to potentially fickle weather.

This was for a work offsite, of course, for a team that I don't belong to, but work closely enough with to secure an invitation when they needed some extra heads to fill out the gondola. Incidentally, boarding for Zeppelin tours apparently involves similar degrees of security to normal commercial flights. I'd imagine watching one of these things attempt to ram a skyscraper would be a slow-motion scene beautiful and majestic, but probably largely ineffectual in this modern non-Hydrogen era - but then what do I know?

It did strike me today that, much as I appreciate work, I probably don't appreciate it enough. I took just three days of medical leave to cover the surgery itself and have since been working from my hotel and home. I'm managing to be quite productive - and that's an important experiment for my planned future in itself - but the fact is that every day since I've been on a combination of uppers and downers (okay, Vicodin and caffeine, but it sounds more exotic phrased the other way) and still doing real work. I've been taking extreme care - my first two code review requests carried the banners:

  • "Please, please, please review this code carefully. It was written on a mixture of Vicodin, Valium, low blood glucose and a caffeine surge," and
  • "Once again, this change list is sponsored by Pfizer. Please review with greater care than usual."
...but this is still very clearly work being damn good in the face of an uncommon situation. Work, I love you.

(Incidentally, work-supplied medical insurance has explicit transgender coverage, but FFS is a specific exclusion - I expect that's meant to prevent people sneaking in purely cosmetic procedures under it, and it certainly doesn't prevent us earning a perfect score with the Human Rights Commission's Corporate Equality Index.)

I spoke to the surgeon yesterday for the formal 2-week checkin, and things generally appear to be going at least as well as expected, and probably a little ahead of the curve. I pushed harder yesterday, working a full day without an afternoon nap, and demonstrated that although it's feasible, things aren't really back to normal. I went to sleep, exhausted, around 10pm and woke at 3am, wide awake again. I spent 3 hours on email (okay, 3 hours on an email) and then another 5 hours of sleep brought me back to full consciousness.

There's an interesting history to such sleeping patterns: I recall reading that Ben Franklin described a similar habit in his writings, calling it a mentally relaxing "air bath" (sadly, all obvious links lead to speculation about how a naked President F might have looked in front of his open window), and Kelly pointed today to a neuroskeptic post referencing this mid-night wakefulness period that was so common in times preceding artificial lighting that some languages apparently had distinct terms for the first and second sleep, as well as the wakefulness period in-between. I'm tickled by the notion of revisiting paleo-sleeping as part of the healing process, and regret that I've already consumed my monthly quota for use of the word "recapitulate".

So things are going swell, in the sense that the swelling is going away. The surgeon confirmed that the facial garment is now at least somewhat optional, to the extent that not wearing it for a few hours at a time won't cause any harm - but alcohol and sodium are still major risks for triggering fluid build-up and swelling. So now that I can be presentable (or at least a smaller visual risk to other people's appetites) for a few hours at a time, I demand to be taken out for risotto, goulash, and anything else that, for the sake of my reduced jaw muscles, is relatively soft (for the first time ever, I'm not eating the hard crusts on pizza; the pain just isn't worth it). I'm very, very tired of canned soup, sliced bananas and reheated ultra-thin-crust pizza.

So far, I like the face that's emerging. My one plaint is the current prominence of the scar beneath the nose, but that's expected to diminish to imperceptibility, and my sensitivity to it is due more to having been effectively bullied into it by the surgeon than real aesthetic concerns.

There's some interesting consequences to the soft-tissue work, though - much of the middle section of my face has been rounded forwards with fat transplants, and although this will adjust over time as a percentage of the fat reabsorbs, the current consequence is that smiling feels really weird. There's new slabs of tissue in there that are moving against each other in ways unaccustomed, not to mention somewhat uncomfortable. There's parts that feel tight, hot, and nerves fire strangely as they reconnect across the incision under my chin, and other scattered numb areas regain sensation. My speech is normally hampered to some degree by the facial garment, but even without, there's still temporary areas of numbness and swelling around my lips that somewhat impede clarity, though not enough to cause problems with phone calls (ie, conversations devoid of visual cues).

On the upside, the large and unsightly scar on the point of my chin - a memento of life-threatening drunken foolishness in a Polish mountain town at the age of 16 - has now moved remarkably far back, and is much less visible as a result. Happy with this outcome!

And now, as a reward for reading this far, I'll link you to the official 14-day pictures of my face. These are not on a public gallery for the moment, in the sense that one can't stumble across them except through this path. The reason is simple - for those of you who felt any sense of attachment to my appearance before, seeing these may be uncomfortable or distressing. I'm not even slightly joking about that. They are, however, a glimpse of my future. Consider yourselves warned.


  1. I really like the new face!

    How do you feel about tofu? For a change in food types, you could try Korean soft tofu stew (e.g. at There's also "rice porridge", and there's a Korean place in Santa Clara that offers quite a variety... everything form chicken and ginseng to black sesame: Sui Tofu (

  2. Thanks! :) I'm generally a fan of tofu in moderate doses, but today's experiment has shown that even mild adventures outside the house are much more challenging than expected. I like that the first review of that place talks positively about someone being unable to eat anything but soup, though - and that they get good reviews for lunch, too, since I'm much brighter earlier in the day. This could work out really well :) Would your schedule allow for lunch there with me anytime soon?