Friday, June 8, 2012

2 days in the emergency room: Who is gender confused???!!!

So a few months ago I started having problems with my stomach.  I have missed a few days at work and in general, it  always just hurts.  Not sick, but hurts.  Went to my doctor a month ago, had an ultrasound.  Was scheduled for an endoscopy to check for ulcers blah blah blah.  Well it all came to a crashing end Sunday night.  I went out with my girlfriends to dinner and I probably should not have had the spare ribs.(but they were soooo good)  We got back to her house around 7:30 and as usual my stomach was just "ow".   So I went home and just crawled into bed at 8.  Things went south pretty fast and it went from "ow" to "somebody rip it out, i can't take it anymore".  I finally went out into the other room where my dad was watching tv and I tried to see the clock on the cable box.  He said "midnight" and I just said holy crap, it's been 4 hours????  He said do we need to go to the hospital and I said yes, right now.  So he woke up my sister and she came in to help me get dressed and ready to go.  I put on my purple sweats, threw on a bra and a long sleeve peach colored t-shirt that I sleep in.  I had my 2 small silver hoop earrings in but no other jewelry and no makeup at all.  

We finally got there and I crawled out of the back seat and my dad went to park the car.  I didn't want a wheel chair because the only relief I got was being able to bend and twist my body and keep moving around randomly to avoid the pain.  I walked up to the desk (bent over and clutching my gut)  and the woman says are you ok???  I manage to eek out "my stomach is killing me".  So I put my wallet on the desk and it is my blue girl wallet. (don't have a male one anymore)  I pull out my license with my male name and my insurance with my ex's name.  The woman right away looks at me and says "why are you giving me this?" (the license) Obviously to her, the female name on the insurance card should be the person standing in front of her.  Awesome! Female: yes.  Male: no.  So she prints out the ID band and puts it on my arm and then hands the paper to a tech and says go into room 2 on the right.

So as we walk in from the public side, there is one tech with my paperwork sitting down at the desk and I am trying to sit in the chair and jumping around like my pants are on fire trying to find a position that does not hurt.  A second tech walks right up to me and says "miss (last name), can you tell us what brings you here tonight?" Female:yes.  Male:no.  We were in that room about 10 minutes and my dad slipped back and forth between he/she a couple times.  I really did not care anyway.  My gut was absolutely killing me.  So we were stuck in the waiting room for about an hour.  I was all over the place. Inside, outside, hanging over the back of chairs, curled up in a ball in one chair, spread across 3 chairs: absolute agony.

Finally I get called back and for some stupid reason she was using my first name only.  My dad was right near the desk so he went up and asked the last name and she said yes.  So I got up from the chairs at the back of the room and when I got up to her she asked my dad again "this is robert???"  I waited about another 10 minutes in the bed and I was absolutely all over the bed trying to ignore the pain.  The nurse came in and started the questions and vitals and all that stuff and the doctors knew my previous test results and issues.  The first nurse was really nice to me.  I told them all about the testosterone blockers and estrogen.  I asked her to call me Michelle and she had no problem with that.  After about 20 minutes she came and told me that they had ordered an iv and some pain meds since it was obvious that I could not sit still at all from the pain.  She came back and we chatted as she was about to stick me.  I flinched a little but whatever she gave me worked really fast.  My dad says I fell asleep 2 minutes after she left and I heard her come back and she took one look at me and said "wow, 10 minutes.  I guess that did help."   So from this point on, the pain meds take over more and more but I did wake up again and was sitting on the end of the bed talking to my dad.  The person next to me had cleared out and a woman came in and started to clean up for the next patient.  She was in and out a few times and then she comes over to my side and says "ok, I just have to say something because if I don't I will really hate myself."   So I said its ok, say anything you want.  "I just love your hair.  It's such a pretty color and I love the way it looks.  You are so pretty but I'm a black girl so my hair could never look like that."  I told her that I really liked it and that it took a few tries to get it the way I liked it and she was really nice.  So I asked my dad: did she think I was a guy???  Most guys are not usually called "pretty" so this one I am a little unsure about.  If she did figure I was a guy, she was very ok with my female presentation.  So anyway, it's my story so Female:yes, Male no.

Ok so now the meds really take over so I need a little clarification here.  When the first nurse gave me the iv, she made me change my clothes.  I still had on my underwear(purple), and I was still wearing my bra and earrings.  But of course the hospital gown.  So by now it had been over an hour on the pain meds and I was pretty much out of it.  She came in and told me that they ordered x-rays and ultrasound.  At this point, my dad could not stay much longer so I told him to go home.  It had to be around 2-3 am and he was really tired too.  So here we are: just waiting. 

So I am almost mush by now.  I was awake, but just barely.  I finally heard a guy come up and was talking to my nurse at the end of my bed.  He is all confused and keeps asking "is this my patient???"  she says yes and there is some discussion.  He says ultrasound and x-ray???  again yes from her and he finally comes in and checks my arm band.  I barely look up at him and see this big black man and he just says "well all right then".   I never moved during the trip to the tests.  I opened my eyes a couple times but I did not move.  When we got to the testing area I hear another discussion above my head because the woman at the ultrasound starts telling him "that's the wrong patient." no it's not.  this is not the right patient.  yes,it is I checked the arm band twice.  So she finally comes over and checks my arm band and I hear "hello???  robert??? is that you??"  so I open my eyes an look up at her and she was obviously confused.  The test lasted about 10 minutes and she kept calling me robert to tell me when to move and hold my breath.  She finished and then said I need x-rays that are right next door so she moved me over there.  This next tech was a little different and not quite so obvious.  She had an accent and they only took a few pictures of my back and stomach.  She did get nervous for the last one and says "I hate to ask, but can you take off your bra for this last chest picture??"  Of course I did and she was fine about it.  So they push me back over to the waiting area for the transport person to come get me again.  Now here I must point out something that I do that actually causes some issue.  When I sleep, I hate my legs covered up when it is warm.  I always will kick the sheets around so my legs are exposed and I usually cover up my butt.  Well, I had done this when the guy came to get me from the emergency room but since he had figured I was male, I think his homo-phobe kicked in a little and he did not touch my sheets.  So now sitting here after the x-ray, I did it again and the same guy came back to return me to the er and said "hey buddy, ready to go back."  He moved me about 2 feet when a female tech came up and got mad at him.  "You can't move her through the halls like that.  You need to cover her up"   Which she did and he just said "whatever".  Female:yes, Male:no.

So it is now almost 6 am back in the er.  They finally come in and tell me that the x-ray was normal but my gallbladder is definitely infected.  So the nurse comes and tells me that they ordered a second iv, antibiotics, bloodwork blah blah blah.  She said surgery is likely so we need to take off the rest of your bra, underwear and earrings.  By this time I was REALLY absolute mush.  This was the same nurse that put in the first iv and she came in for the second one in my other arm.  She was talking to me while she did it.  Again she says "1,2,3.. stab", "is that ok???"  I didn't even flinch at the second iv and she just says "yeah I think its ok".  There was some debate about the seriousness of my condition so the doctors were deciding if they would send me home to schedule with my regular doctor or if it needed to be done right now.   I got really mad and told them "no fix it now, last night was terrible, do it now".  About an hour later they came and told me that I was scheduled for 2pm on Monday and I would be moved to the 23 hour surgical unit.  

So again a little clarification.  It is now 7 am on Monday and you may have noticed that I have yet to mention my ex.   At this point though, surgery is something she needs to know about.  I sent her a text but I knew she was already at work.  I told her "went to emergency last night, surgery sometime today".  The next few hours I just waited to be moved and finally around noon on monday they moved me to the 23 hour surgical unit.  My first nurse was really nice.  We did all the history, meds, contacts.  I told her about the t-blockers and hormones and asked her about Michelle.  She said she could change it in the system but I told her that it had to be robert for all the insurance.  She said it would be no problem and we chatted a bit.  She asked me when I decided to do the hormone thing and I told her 2 years ago when I moved out of my ex's house.  So she was figuring things out and I had also listed my ex as the emergency contact.   And just then the nurse at the other station tells us someone is trying to call my room.  So back and forth, the 2 nurses talk.  The one at the station: "she say it's his wife", my nurse: "your ex??", yes put the call to the room.  So we talked for about 5 minutes and the nurse stayed the whole time.  This whole situation was extremely painful for both me and my ex.   She was very upset at the thought of me being alone in the hospital and absolutely unsure about her proper "place" in the whole situation.  We are separated and trying to be emotionally independent.  She said she wanted to be there and I told her it was not fair of me to ask her.  If nothing else, I told her to wait until after work because the schedule was still 2 hours away.  We went back and forth about how "proper" this would be but she said that she just had to be here with me and that she would be there in a half hour.  So I got off the phone and said to the nurse: "now it gets complicated."  So I asked her to take out the Michelle reference.  I said I do not want to be called Michelle in front of my ex.  I told the nurse that it is just too hard for her but she knows all about it.  The nurse was ok about it and I thought that she changed the system back. 

My ex did get there around 12:30.  Again it was extremely difficult for both of us.  We tried very hard to maintain some separation of emotions but I must admit that we both failed miserably.  We talked about a lot of stuff and I was really happy she was there.  At the same time, I knew that she was having a very hard time because even this stripped down, hospital gown person is nothing like the old physical male presence that she once knew.  My legs look different and I have small pointy boobs.  But anyway, now we are just waiting again and by now my dad and sister are back waiting too.  I was pretty tired so I was half asleep for most of the time anyway.

Finally around 2:30, my nurse tells us that  the transport people called and it should be around 20 minutes. My ex tells me she needs to run to the bathroom and wants to make sure she is there when I leave.  She goes and sure enough about a minute later I hear beds moving around and then some discussion.  "Is she still sleeping???"  My nurse:"No, she just went to the bathroom, just wait a minute."  "She's right there in the bed???"  My nurse:"the patient is a he."  "that's a he???"  My nurse:"yes,the patient is a he."  So my ex comes back and helps me get out of the bed and I move into the hall.  The transport person looks me up and down and clearly I am not her version of a he.  I manage to eek out "which end is..."  "Put your head at this end sweetie"  So I manage to pour myself onto this bed and she says give me a minute to cover you up honey.  Female: yes, Male: no.

We got just to the end of the hallway when my room nurse stops us and comes to ask about my ex.  She did not want to talk in front of her but she told me that my ex was allowed to go farther with me if I wanted.  It was really nice of her and I told her that my ex had absolute access to anyplace she was allowed to be with me.  I told the nurse that my ex should be told any and all info about me so she went back and brought my ex to me again and we continued to the operating prep rooms.  I was pretty well awake but I was getting a little anxious and my ex knew it.  We met with the anesthesiologist group and they made me a little nervous too.  And then my ex took a good solid punch right in the stomach when the tech asked if I still wanted to be called Michelle.  I said, oh crap, no, that was before I thought she would be here.  I looked at her and she barely reacted but I knew it hurt her.  The tech kept pushing it saying that they needed a name that I would react to after the surgery.  Awkward.....

So the next hours are very personal, gross, scary and probably not really worth sharing.  So we will kind of breeze through it.  When I woke up, my ex, my sister, brother, mom and dad were all in my room back in the 23 hour unit.  My ex says they only stayed about a half hour but she told me that she did not leave until after 10pm because I kept trying the talk to her.  Anyway, as soon as she left, my nurse came in and said "ok she's gone.  I can call you Michelle now, right???"  I just smiled at her and said that would be great.  Now this is not the same nurse that I had talked to at noon the day before.  The shift had changed and this nurse started at 7pm.  I don't remember meeting her but she must have come in sometime between 7 and 10pm to talk to me.  But now she made it clear that for the rest of the night I would be Michelle to her and the staff.  She was sooooo nice.  I really liked her and it got to be 7am and I knew that the shift would change again.  Sure enough, around 7:10, in walks nurse Kelly.  She was really nice to me too but there was one glaring difference.  Not once between 7am and 4pm when I finally left did she refer to me by ANY name.  I KNOW that Sendie(previous nurse)  would have told her about it so I kind of figured that she was just not comfortable with it.  At least she was nice enough that she never referred to me as male either.  Even as the person wheeled me away, Kelly was right behind me at the nurse station.  I very clearly said "bye Kelly" and she just replied "bye".

So there is just one other thing about this experience.  My last few hours were of course my most awake and normal reactions.  Since it was now late in the day again, there were a lot of people around in the surgical unit.  Kelly did make me walk around the unit.  The first time was at 8 am right after I ate.  Now like myself, the other patients couldn't give a rat's butt about anybody else because we all feel like crap being there.  BUT.... the staff was another story.  I always can tell when someone "figures out" a tranny.  They get that smug, satisfied smile when they look at us and suddenly realize "it's a guy!! that's what's wrong.  whew, I almost got fooled but it's ok it's just a guy with a problem.  there's nothing wrong with me, I figured it out."  So here I am now on Tuesday.  Have not shaved my face since late Sunday afternoon.  Still in the hospital gown, but I have fixed my hair and I am wearing my purple glasses.  I am sloooowly walking around the unit twice as ordered by my nurse and I can't help but notice the looks I am getting.  These are NOT the ah ha, it's a tranny but more of an irritated and confused look.  They seem annoyed that they can't quite figure out what is slightly different with this person.  Their first reaction is "girl", BUT they know that something is just slightly off and they seem annoyed that they can't make the snap decision to "guy trying to look like a girl".  People don't like this grey area.  It makes them question their own ability to define the genders.  I really did not care either way.  

Even with the stubbly face, I was Michelle and that is the way it should be.  Hopefully now my stomach won't hurt anymore either.



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