Monday, April 19, 2010

My first independent day

6am: wake up in moderate pain. Drugs aren't scheduled until 7am. Take half a Vicodin anyway, attempt to go back to sleep. The cold, wet gauze that I'm supposed to cover my eyes with when possible to keep swelling down has been stolen by the underpants gnomes, as usual, but putting a fresh one on doesn't help with getting back to sleep. The facial garment that I've now worn for 12 hours or so is tight, uncomfortable, and makes me worry - as many things do - about necrotizing fasciitis. I look for an excuse to remove it. The medication schedule and care instructions say I need to keep it on at all times except when showering and eating. I sense a loophole.

6.30am: fridge is almost empty, but remnants of vegetable soup remain. Have mastered this mysterious microwave device to make something almost completely unappetizing but a justifiable excuse to get the hell out of the facial garment. Eating is so, so, so much easier than it was when wearing full dressings. Maximum separation of teeth then was 1-2cm. Now I can eat almost normally I take another half Vicodin - although these are nominally two per six hours, I have verbal permission to both shorten the gap to 4 hours and also spread them out across the interval. I diligently note down dosages and times and contemplate the shower.

7.11am: I'm out of the shower, and deciding to start writing up this day as a diary. The drugs are clearly kicking in. I lucked out when checking in - since I arrived at 6am last Wednesday, there was only one room available, which happened to be a handicapped-equipped single-bedroom suite. It has bars everywhere. I hold onto the bars for dear life while in the shower - 814% of domestic accidents happen due to stupid people in bathrooms. Peeling off gauze underneath facial garment causes no major drama, other than prompting me to notice that my ears are totally, utterly, 100% numb. Note to self: look into local body mod artists that specialize in pointing ears into elf-like/Vulcan shapes. Alternatively, tattoo the running price tag of my face into my left inner ear. I'm late for drugs.

7.22am: remaining medication allotted for the morning consumed. Still wearing only a towel, like a cape - I have a drain fitted, which is (I believe) a perforated tube that runs under my skin, along the crease of the jaw (ie, where it meets the neck), from ear to ear, exiting behind my right ear. It's visible in the photos, which is one reason why I don't like looking at them. It isn't particularly heavy, but is part-full of fluid (oh, beautiful euphemism), and can't really dangle freely. It has a clip, intended for attaching onto clothes, so I drape a hand towel around my neck and clip onto that. The shower was wonderful.

8.21am: yeesh. Suture cleanup done, as best as I can tell. There's a lot of stitches inside my nose, and the fizzing of peroxided q-tips up there is faintly disturbing. Other than that, I only have stitches behind my ears, and some presently inaccessibly ones under my chin. Cleaning the ears is largely guesswork, and I've almost finished my supply of 500 q-tips, too, so a foraging expedition may well be called for. That should be *very* exciting - luckily I have hoodies to conceal the drain. But prior to that, I'm once again dressed in comfort clothes, and it amused me mightily to realize that everything I wore to and since the op are tokens from my entire set of long-term relationships - every item, covering every long relationship. While this is in part attributable to reassuring emotional connections, it's also an indication that I'm not very good at buying comfortable clothes for myself. Next up - the dreaded facial massage.

9.17am: the dreaded facial massage wasn't so bad, which probably means that I'm Doing It Wrong. No doubt that will be corrected in today's doctor's visit. For now - let's see how well I code on drugs. Although it suddenly occurs to me that I haven't had any caffeine in nearly a week. That can't be healthy. First caffeinated soda from downstairs, *then* work. And I pity the fools who scheduled a videoconference.

10.45am: after an hour of trying to work whilst my VPN drops out every 10 minutes, I receive a call from the surgery, telling me the doctor will be in in about 20 minutes. This seems like an excellent reason to take extra Vicodin. Also seems like an excellent opportunity to record the visit for later replay. I also notice that my balance really isn't all that it could be - verging on falling over from relatively low altitudes and so on. It's entirely possible that it has been no better the whole time, I'm just being more cavalier about it. Breakfast raid downstairs was successful, although resulted in a bunch of food that requires serious mushing up to consume.

12.25pm: In anticipation of the visit, and desiring to record the experience, I set up my ultracompact in the bedroom, but it has the dodgy eye-fi card and indeed failed to do anything other than corrupt the data on it while recording. *eyeroll* Also, eye-fi auto-resolved the trouble ticket because I hadn't responded for 120 hours since their asking me to try the card in another camera. I've been busy, guys. Anyway. After beating on the webcam for videoconferencing on my work laptop - belated realization: I have another webcam on the other laptop, sigh (commentary: why, Mikolaj, did you bring two laptops to surgery, hmm?) - I eventually got it to work with ultra-crappy sound shortly before he arrived, and it turned out to be a completely anti-climactic visit (incidentally, does anyone know the Illinois laws on single-party recording?). Every other time he has dropped by he has led off with the "gosh, you're really going to regret not having your forehead done, everything else is going to look so good, and that's just going to look jarring" - irritatingly, I'm starting to buy it, even given my aesthetic plans and the lack of visible outcome just yet - whereas this time, there was the barest mention in passing. More importantly, he physically reinforced the importance of the massage. The massage intensity that he demonstrated on the outside of my chin, along the jawbone, caused a gush of fluid inside my mouth. Checking later with a q-tip, it was indeed blood. There's a lot pooling in there, and now I'm rather more convinced of the necessity of draining it mechanically. Particularly when there's a tall blonde lass on her way to help me with it later this afternoon. Still haven't managed to do any work, since VPN is refusing to stay up longer than 10 minutes at a time.

2.52pm: whoa. Lymphatic massage woman came through with the most amazing machine. You put on some leg condoms and then heavy duty (canvas?) sheaths over the top that have individual air reservoirs connected to a solenoid array and a compressor, which automatically does this slow massage thing up and down your legs. Felt just divine - I nearly fell asleep. I want to build one.

5.06pm: got the VPN and videoconference thing sorted out, wrote most of a changelist that needs submitting (with lots of warnings about it having been written with the aid of Vicodin), and videoconferenced into my office to check in with cubemates. I took care to put some gauze over the camera, because I'm a considerate sort of person. Also, my cubemates rock.

7.28pm: distracted by coding. Severely impaired coding, but completed a change and sent it to three reviewers with a plea for an extra-thorough review. Half an hour late for next meds, too - first time I haven't been hanging out for painkillers before the scheduled time. Possibly because I got my hands on some diet coke from the downstairs store. Walking is not as steady as it could be - there's definite low-grade dizziness going on, and I'm intending to stay the hell away from stairs for the forseeable future, although that could also be due to hunger more than anything else. Also met a couple of the girls who had been stuck here due to volcano irruptions into flight schedules, who seem entirely sweet, and look much better than I do - but, it turns out, had only minor work done, which is why their lips don't precede them into the elevator. Eyes very dry and wanting to close, but will attempt to stay up for the 1am medication round. Besides, Pandora's playing t.A.T.u.

11.11pm: oops, nap? Took a half Vicodin to brace for massage after 7pm, which (combined with precisely one good night's sleep a weekend or two back out of the past month - where "good" might have still involved a lot of waking, tossing, and turning, but at least it went for over 12 hours), might just have been enough. Taking another full Vicodin now, will be turning on SyFy to give it time to kick in. I'm probably more afraid of these massages than I need to be - or I'm developing a taste for Vicodin - but this will be my first full-vigour attempt. Nagging at me at various points today has been the realization that the doctor really was right about the recovery - the incidental suffering from having done the brow would have been pretty small. Nonetheless, I'm trying to keep in mind that the reason that I didn't have it done was aesthetic: scar avoidance. All his pooh-poohing of that fear revolved around full transition, hair grafts, and a lifetime of supporting long hair and a femme hairstyle. I foresee butch phases in my future (well, at least as butch as Tank Girl) - I walked in willing to sign up for an endoscopic brow burring, and he refused to do it. Them dice are still rolling. Let's see how they land.

3.16am: this, so far, has all been very anti-climactic. I'm in complete comfort, no state of fear for what the bandages conceal, optimistic about pimping out my compressive head-gear over the next few months, did a decent amount of work today, got videoconferencing working, and am feeling generally hale and hearty. Better yet, I'm two hours ahead of my teammates, so can make better use of productive evenings, sleep in, and still not miss the early morning team meeting (the devilish dilemma - how many layers of gauze to put over the camera?). Life, for now, is damn good. The contrast with how I felt before surgery is stark. Many of you called or emailed and spent a long time talking to me about everything - I love you all. Many, many more of you took the time to just call out reassurance across the airwaves, reminding me that you were thinking of me, which was invaluable also. I don't know that I would have been brave enough to do this with friends here - it was pretty grotty and disgusting for the first couple of days - but I never felt alone. Thank you.


  1. I suspect some of the dizziness if a result of frequent dosing with Vicodin. I know when I first had access to it I took two because the combination of 2+2 acetaminophen and ibuprofen had been doing exactly zero for me, but within about half an hour I decided that one Vicodin was probably enough.

  2. Some of the hottest chicks in history have had strong brows. Don't worry about it.

  3. I've long since taken active control of my brow appearance, so, prima facie, I'm not too concerned (see what I did there?), but if I somehow wind up deciding that a silver horizontal scar would be sexy in later life, there'll be some eye-rolling.