Before Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher arrived a year-and-a-half ago, sex reassignment surgery (SRS) was not being performed in Indianapolis. It has taken time for her to get established, to line up patients, and for the patients to be ready for surgery, all which helps understand why I was only the sixth person to have SRS at Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital.
This being new to the hospital introduces many topics for consideration. Though I have found health care folks to be very understanding and helpful, one should not assume that everyone is automatically on board with SRS. Add to this that, at Eskenazi, surgery and post-op care is being done in the burn unit. This means that a person, who has had elective surgery—and a surgery which many people find suspect—is in the same ward as those who would never have chosen to be hospitalized for the reason that put them there.
As, when I became mobile two days after surgery, I walked the halls of the burn unit, my eye caught a number of these patients. Many of them looked to be in serious condition, with tremendously challenging healing in front of them, perhaps with lives permanently altered, and in need of the greatest care from the doctors, nurses, and therapists.
Why is SRS handled in the burn unit? The burn unit provides a place for the best of care. SRS is no small surgery. For the first few post-op days, the patient must be watched very carefully. Indeed, a nurse was in to see me every four hours, around the clock.
I am pleased to report that every last person treated me wonderfully, and no differently than I have ever been treated when previously hospitalized, pre-transition.
From admittance to release, I interacted with at least twenty persons. I was misgendered at least once by nearly half of them, and more than once by a few. Only one noted his mistake, saying, “Sorry,” and then using the correct pronoun.
One certainly appreciates that this was noticed, but I don’t absolutely need folks to make note of it. Simply correcting it tells me all I need from them.
When I had my first post-op visit, Dr. Gallagher told me that one of the folks felt terrible that she had misgendered me. This person popped in to say hi that day and was very friendly, as is her nature.
Frankly, I didn’t blame any of them for misgendering me, especially after surgery. I know what I looked like lying there, and I hardly resembled a woman, and with this growth on my vocal cord right now my voice sounds just awful. Sure, I have woman’s name, and everyone knew why I was there, but I have learned much about how people are perceived. I took no offense when called he and him, even as I appreciated when it was corrected to she and her.
The most sensitive situation for doctors and nurses was checking my dressing and examining the surgical area. If anyone had a problem with this, with the changing of a penis into a vagina, I detected nothing. I am sure you know how it can be when a person is disagreeable to something, or disgusted by it, how it can be almost impossible for it not to show on the face or in a verbal reaction—even if it is as small as a tiny grunt or sigh, or lips which are slightly turned down, or a frown on the eyes—so spontaneous it is that it happens despite the person’s not wanting to show it. If any of the several folks, all of whom were women, had a problem with this, I witnessed nothing. Nothing but concern for my well-being and their desire to do their job well for their patient.
If any of the staff begrudged my presence, and the reason I was in the burn unit, I never detected it. I give each one high marks. I always felt that my needs were the concern of everyone—doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, the physical therapist, and other staff.
I hope I have opportunity to make that known. I informed Dr. Gallagher when I saw her at my first post-op appointment, that she might pass on the good word.
Dr. Gallagher also does top surgery for trans men, and she has done way more of those than bottom surgery for trans women—something like eight times more. So, there have been a number of folks in Eskenazi for trans-related surgery.
This brings me to another new area of concern for the hospital, which is the spiritual care of its trans patients.
They have a fine man in the unit, who is serving as chaplain. Chaplain Rick was a pastor for many years, landing in the chaplaincy fairly recently. When he found Julie during my surgery, he got the lowdown on me. (Poor guy.) Post-surgery, he and I had two nice visits. This all is new for him. He demonstrated a high concern for understanding our issues, and for providing appropriate care.
It is common for trans folks, who were brought up in a religious faith, to have been stung bad. Many no longer possess the faith of their youth, largely because they have been beat down: “You’re going to hell if you keep this up.” Some have come to completely reject all ideas about God which they had been taught. Issues of religion often continue with family, as the family still practices its faith and often judge their child’s or sibling’s or parent’s transitioning as sinful.
So, to have Chaplain Rick walk into their hospital room, and announce that he is the chaplain on staff, could easily upset the transgender woman or transgender man who already is in a delicate state because of the surgery just undergone.
Chaplain Rick has already learned a lot. He demonstrates a keen concern for doing the best job he can for we trans folks. I am delighted that he wants to continue talking with me. He’s already contacted me since I’ve been home.
Not only am I pleased that he desires to provide good care for us, I like him—and likeability goes a long way in how a person will receive a minister in her or his hospital room.
Kudos to you, Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital, and to your hardworking and faithful employees. Thank you for making what was the most physically challenging few days of my life to go as smoothly as one could ask.