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My facial feminization surgical journal (1997)

Note: This is my first-hand report of facial feminization with Douglas Ousterhout, written from notes taken in December, 1997. I’ve left it as I wrote it and made notations where necessary. For my 1996 work, see part one.

Monday, December 8

Cathy took me to the airport, no questions asked at gate. The visit was far too short, and I think we both wish it could have lasted longer. Flight got in to a nice day in SF. After a wait at Supershuttle, I was on my way. Went right to hospital, checked into guest room. Then called Mira, and I went down to take care of business stuff, get a set of photos, and have a consult with Dr. O. He thanked me for writing my thing, and we had a nice long chat about this and that. He was pleased with my progress. I talked about what he planned to do, a long talk about complications. lip paralysis, loss of sensation in lip or chin, wire pop, death. I asked whom he thought was beautiful, and he said he looks for whatever is beautiful features in anyone. He said he makes most of his decisions on the operating room table. Still, it was interesting to talk about the photos I brought. I got Rxs. Then to pharmacy to get them filled. I forgot to get them done in my boy name. They worked around it, though. I went and ate some stir fry and chilled out for an hour, then back to get Rx. Then down to Safeway to buy lots of soft food and lug it up the hill. Back in the room, I set up my computer, watched Tv, made some calls and went to sleep.

Tuesday, December 9

Up before alarm next day. Took my camera down for my own set of photos, then had to go back and take my first Cipro. Bought two sodas, then back to slip on a gown and hop in the chair. Dr. O had told me at the consult he planned on doing only 200 grafts, which was far less than I hoped. He said that was as many as he could squeeze in. At my previous visit, he’d said he would double the density on my following visit, with hopes of getting the density to about 50 hairs/cm^2. 200 would only get me to around 35/cm^2. I asked about 7 times if he was sure that was the most we could do, including just before we started. Apparently, he’s been referring many patients who require a large number of grafts to Dr. Rosinelli in the Bay Area. it labor intensive, and Dr. O. admits he’s just not as efficient at it as someone who specialized in transplants. He would have to charge more for comparable results for that reason. I appreciated that candor, but I was disappointed that I was only getting half what I’d expected. I also asked about lips. He said of 15 alloderm procedures he did last year, only one had acceptable lasting results. I didn’t really need it that badly anyway. Harumi gave me a ValiumI got in the chair, Harumi pinned my hair up, the found the previous scar. I had a sore spot on one end which I mentioned, and he said he could fix that. The injections hurt a bit, but not too badly. He was taking a smaller donor patch, so it was done quickly. In 15 minute or so I was all stapled up. While Harumi and Barb separated the grafts, I fell asleep in the chair. Before we started in front, I asked to run to the bathroom, and I took a moment to talk with someone from Chicago getting a consultation then we got going. He did a couple of injections in front, then got the rest of it numbed and began placing the pins. Because we only did half as many as last time, both the pins and graft placement took quite a bit less time. I had some discomfort right in the center of my forehead which was pretty persistent, so Dr. O really loaded up the area with anesthetic. They had gotten better at the process since my first visit– much more efficient. They had me rest a bit while they cleaned up, then he inspected it one more time and had Harumi put dressings on both cites and wrap me up, making sure my glasses wouldn’t be in the way. They asked me to wait about 20 minutes waiting to see how I was doing. The chin bandage is impossible to hide without tying a scarf under your chin. I didn’t like that look, so when I went out later, I put my scarf only over the head part. back in the room, I did a bit of writing, then tried to rest.

He ended up doing 195.

Wednesday, December 10

I looked and felt good. I slept pretty well. I rested most of the day. I made plans to have dinner with a friend. toward mid-day, my right eye started to swell. I think it’s because unlike last time, I kind of slept with my head resting to one side. The puffiness got worse throughout the day, until by dinner it was swollen almost half shut. This had not happened last time. The left eye got a little puffy too, but not too bad. I took it easy on the walk home, and the swelling didn’t get any worse.

Thursday, December 11

The swelling in the right eye remained about the same most of the day, and a very light yellow bruising started appearing. I never got very bad, though. I had to visit the office for some business stuff, and Harumi gave me a holistic antiswelling preparation called arnica montana. I was to melt 10 an hour under my tongue. They were sweet and a bit chalky. I went out with another friend for the day. In the evening, I packed up my stuff in preparation for my early morning checkout.

Friday, December 12

Today is exactly one year from my forehead surgery. Up at 5:45. down to admitting at 6:00. they finalized the paperwork, had me sign a few more consent forms, then took me to a room to put on my gown, robe, slippers. The same admitting nurse, Kerry, checked me in as last time. This time, they had me put on white anti-embolism stockings. They did a medical history, explained what would be happening, then I ended up taking my stuff back up to room 323, since there would be no one in it that evening. I kept a small bag of things such as my purse and toiletries. I waited for Dr. O. There was an unbelievably spectacular sunrise that everyone who saw it commented on. It looked the the old Japanese rising sun flag– brilliant rays of purple and pink radiating up through the misty bay. Around 7:00. Dr. O came down and we spoke briefly, then I was taken to the prep room. A nurse came in with a few more questions, then the anesthesiologist arrived. She had done her undergrad in Chicago, so we talked about a caramel corn store she loved. Her assistant arrived, and they started prepping me very efficiently. They put an inflatable air blanket over me, filled with warmed air, got the IV going. I was actually a little disappointed because I don’t remember the moment of going under, which I thought was so cool last time. I don’t remember the recovery room at all except for a very brief moment with the anesthesiologist. Next thing I remember is being in my room. I felt no pain, but there was a sort of pressure on my lower face. Hanging around my neck was some plastic tubing wrapped in terry cloth. On each side of my inner lower lip, a very narrow plastic tube was inserted, which drained into plastic bottles the size of tiny lemons attached to the tubes. When I awoke, they were about half full. Occasionally someone would come in and empty them, measuring the contents. The tiny tubing made it tricky to sip with a straw or to use a spoon without dribbling it. Eventually I got the hang of it. I had the same nurse as last time during the evening shift. The entire staff was good this time. I asked for some water and started slowly sipping it and doing the deep breathing to clear the anesthesia from my lungs. I felt good enough to call people, so I made a few calls. I think I sounded like Julia Child. They brought me a liquid meal which was easy to eat. The nurse remarked on my pain threshold, since i hadn’t asked for anything yet. I started thinking I’m paying for it anyway, so even though the pain wasn’t that bad, I had them bring me something. They gave me 4 mg morphine, put right in my IV, which really relaxed me (it made it much easier to sleep). I can see why people abuse morphine– I instantly felt so relaxed, so weightless, as if I were floating off the bed. I drifted off to sleep soon after. The trickiest part of the whole recover was having to breathe through my mouth, which really dried out my lips. I had John take a photo of me. I had an IV pole, and I was allowed to go to the bathroom on my own when necessary. No problems there. At one point, I started to doze off with a cup of water in my hands and spilled it all over my shoulder and down my back. John came in and changed my gown and sheets. Later a group of men came through singing beautiful Christmas carols. The evening mostly consisted of napping, waking, sipping water to moisten my mouth, going to the bathroom, then, starting it all over. They seemed surprised by how much water I drank. At one point in the bathroom I looked in the mirror. The bandage looked like Geraldo’s when he got hit with the chair. Occasionally someone would come in and change my IV bag or take my vitals. I took another half dose of morphine sometime early in the morning and settled in for a longer nap.

Saturday, December 13

Slept on and off through the night. Took a half dose of morphine in the morning. I kept continuously sipping water. The feeling on the jaw is not painful– it’s tight like when I had me wisdom teeth out. sort of a dull ache. The nose feels like when you bump it against something. Kind of like you feel like sneezing, and a little sore. My lower lip is swollen and very dry. I put some vaseline lip balm on it, which helped a lot. The sorest part is the back of my throat, I assume from the breathing tube. Swallowing feels like trying to swallow with your nose pinched closed. It feels good to sip cold water. The inside of my mouth feels fine, but lower front teeth are pretty numb. The drains make it easy to dribble when drinking. My mouth dries out very quickly because you can’t shut it. Dr. O came in sometime in the morning. He told me things went great, took a good look at the drains, then to my surprise pulled them right out. It didn’t hurt, but I’d been so careful with them that I wasn’t expecting it. He unceremoniously tossed the drains in the trash, instructed me not to get the dressings wet. Gave me a box of 2×2 gauze pads and tape to place under my nostrils. They had been changing them throughout the night. I had another clear liquid meal, then they took out my IV, gave me a pain pill, had me sign release instructions, got a wheelchair and took me down to my room. I had the attendant put my stuff on the bed. I felt good enough to unpack and put most of the stuff into drawers. I cranked the heat in the room all the way up and started the pattern of eating a bit, resting a bit, sipping water, going to the bathroom. At one point I watched “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” then fell asleep again. After this, the time really seemed to start dragging out. Saturday night and Sunday morning went very slowly. I sat there envisioning a special place in hell for the idiots who had their car alarms going off in the hospital parking garage.

Sunday, December 14

I hadn’t taken any pain medication in about 24 hours. It didn’t really hurt, but I was now having difficulty getting to sleep. I took a vicodin and that did the trick. All the discomfort left, and I fell asleep. I awoke somewhat sweaty, but it actually felt good. I usually don’t like to be hot, but I really felt comfortable wrapped in the blankets with the heat way up. I lay there in a kind of in-and-out state, then I got up and got some more ice and jello. I very carefully felt around with my tongue inside my mouth. I could feel the sutures along the lower gumline. I watched a little TV, then rested some more. I had started writing this yesterday, and I got the rest of it caught up that afternoon. It had been a gray rainy morning. I tried clenching my teeth together. No problems, although the insides of my cheeks were kind of swollen, and I had to be careful not to bite them. I also very carefully felt the bones along my jaw line– hard to feel where they were, but I can definitely tell things are different

Monday, December 15

I didn’t feel like doing much of anything. I watched TV and napped on and off. In the late morning, I got dressed and went down to wrap and mail a Christmas gift. I stopped in at Dr. O’s office. Harumi gave me some more arnica. She and Mira commented that I looked pretty good, all things considered. Getting out actually helped me feel a little better, and took my mind off the annoyance of having to breathe through my mouth. That was about all I was up to. I went back up and napped and sipped water and ate a little. So far, I’ve been sticking mostly with jello, applesauce and sorbet. I was very much looking forward to getting the nose packing out the next day. The night was long. I watched more TV and lay around. I slept on and off through the night. I found that sipping tiny amounts of room temperature water felt best.

Tuesday, December 16

I lay around until my 1:30 appointment, literally counting down the hours. I was VERY tired of breathing through my mouth. When I went down, I wasn’t feeling very well. Dr. O sat me in a chair, leaned me back and looked things over. Then the took the gauze strip under my nostrils off and slowly began pulling out the packing. About half the right side came out with no problems, then he had to reach in a way to get the rest of it. I can’t say it hurt, but it did feel very odd. I could feel it behind my eye as well as my nostril. The other side came out very easily. I was flinching a bit, mostly because I didn’t know what to expect. Then he took a cool wet piece of material and put it back up in my nose. It had a sort of medicated smell and taste that eventually started dripping down the back of my throat. Once he got the other side done, he started cutting away and removing the bandage and some sutures between my nostrils. That did not feel good– my eyes were watering. He took out the medicated packing. I was still bleeding a little on one side, so, he put another one in. It was so nice to be able to breathe through one side of my nose. He took out one of the loose staples in the back of my head, and I said I didn’t mind leaving the others in a while longer. I felt a little lightheaded, so he leaned me back and had me rest a while. He took out the packing again and had me breathe through my nose for a few minutes. He was going to take off the chin dressing, but he said I could leave it on until tomorrow and then remove it myself. I was perfectly happy leaving it in place as long as he thought was necessary (even longer). The discomfort was minor compared to my desire to heal as quickly as possible. The dressing made it hard to open my mouth wide, and it sort of felt like I had braces again, and the bottom teeth had just been tightened. It was a steady sort of pressure rather than any unbearable pain. I went back upstairs to rest and eat a bit. I felt so much better now that my mouth could stay closed and my sore throat could heal up. I made a couple of phone calls, did a little writing, but mostly rested and watched TV. I’d been feeling a little faint in Dr. O’s office, but I felt better after resting. I can’t describe the difference breathing through my nose made. I took a shower, being very careful not to get my dressing wet. I did this by draping part of a plastic bag over my face and holding it tight to my forehead while I was rinsing my hair. There’s a bath on a room across the hall from my room, but I didn’t feel like leaving my room. Once done, I rested some more. I think the more resting I can do, the quicker I’ll heal. The swelling on my nose was reduced a bit. The chin is the worst, bulging out from under the bandages. The corners of the jaw weren’t quite a bad. None of the jaw hurt to press on. The nose is tender (numb at the tip) especially underneath, and the inner cheeks are a bit swollen near the back molars. I took some pain meds in anticipation of the unpacking, but since the unpacking, I didn’t take anything. I definitely don’t feel that hot, but I feel and look much better than yesterday. The bruising at the eyes has turned yellow. It was never that bad. Now the bruising has drained down to my neck. I can start to see the nose changes, and I’m already pleased. I was very hungry, but I felt very nauseated. Just like last time, my digestive system had gotten all messed up since surgery, and like last time, taking some chewable milk of magnesia pills made me feel much, much better. I slept well, but I didn’t eat anything.

Wednesday, December 17

I’ve been having very vivid dreams since I got here. Must be the drugs. I awoke around 10 am after the most vivid one yet. My throat is very sore when I wake up. I took some time to swallow lots of sips of water. Before I went to bed last night, I tried tending to some very tender spots inside my lower lip. They seemed to be caused by several things: mainly, the swelling had exposed a lot of my inner lip to the air, and it had dried and cracked in a couple of places. Also, the sutures right in front were rubbing in one spot. Finally, the attached straw on the bottle I’d been sipping from had a sharp plastic ridge I’d been cutting my lip on without realizing it. I filed that down last night and put half a piece of gauze between the sutures and my lower lip and put on a bunch of Vaseline before sleeping. The magnesia made me feel so much better last night, just like last time.

Around 11 I decided to peel the chin bandage off. It didn’t hurt, but it was very gummy adhesive. I tried to wash it off, but the best way I found to remove it was to rub my dry fingers on the adhesive till they were sticky, then wipe off my hands and do the same thing over and over. It took a while, but eventually, most of the sticky stuff was off. I was pleased to see I’d had very little facial hair growth (just a couple dozen or so coarse ones along my right jawline), especially since I didn’t bring a razor. My jaw was pretty swollen, and the skin had that newborn-pink color to it where the bandage had been, but it subsided pretty quickly. I got a call from Gwen, who was going to be downtown and offered to stop by. Her timing was perfect. I was ready to get out of the room and get something to eat, and my AOL had broken just prior to surgery, so she brought along a disk. I cleaned up myself and the room in preparation. I would clean up a little, then relax a bit. I can’t do much activity, especially more than a few minutes, without starting to feel tired. At this point, the surgical healing seems totally under control, and I think once I get my appetite back, I’ll be perfectly fine. I’m hungry, but I don’t want to eat, it’s a very weird thing for me. I remember this from last time, but it’s still such a foreign concept to me. We went to an Italian restaurant, where I went nuts. It really hurt to swallow the soup, even though I’d taken two vicodin prior to eating. Salad was tricky, too– it kept getting down around the sutures. I got some ravioli and made a big dent in it. Everything tasted great and it felt good to have a big meal. I had the rest wrapped up and brought it back. I said goodbye to Gwen and Bonnie and went back up to do some writing.

Thursday, December 18

The only problem that causes me any difficulty to speak of is my throat. Now that I could open my jaw all the way, I checked things out more thoroughly inside my mouth. The uvula was inflamed and looked kind of white (though it was hard to tell). It was clearly the cause of my discomfort, though. It even hurt a little when it would touch the back of my tongue. Now, none of this was any worse than a bad sore throat, so don’t get the impression it’s unbearable. Only immediately after waking or while trying to eat does it cause any problems. The pain is hitting my vagus nerve, too– that’s that weird nerve that feels like it’s in your ear as well as the back of your throat. Gargling with warm (almost hot) water feels good, followed by a cool gargle. In fact, a gargle before eating took the edge off the discomfort, as did a vicodin. While the nose splint isn’t uncomfortable, it’s starting to get itchy. I found I was able to reach the itchy spots by breaking off one end of a q-tip and carefully sliding it under the bandage from the top or bottom of the edge of the nose. I did this sparingly, since I probably shouldn’t have been doing it at all, but it felt good.

Friday, December 19

I stopped leaning the bed way up for sleeping. I still have it at a slight incline, but I feel ok lying on my side, although I take care not to put ant pressure on the jaw by putting a hand under my cheek. The sore spots on my inner lip area are much improved. I’m always amazed by the recuperative powers of the mouth. I spent the day epilating my legs and hanging out in the room, watching TV and doing way too little writing.

Saturday, December 20

I Took a couple Vicodins in anticipation of the remainder of the nose stuff really hurting. Turns out it wasn’t too bad. I went down to Dr. O’s office and I was able to ask a lot of my questions about laser skin resurfacing while I was getting the splint off. In fact, he talked me out of it during this. He felt in my case, there was a strong chance of hypopigmentation (I’m already very fair-skinned). He used some kind of turpentine/ether type stuff to clean off the gummy adhesive. Then he leaned me back and carefully cut a couple of sutures in my nostrils. That shut me up. It wasn’t as bad as when he removed the sutures under the nostrils, but I was very tense and he had to keep reminding me to breathe. The sutures he took out looked like they’d anchored the inner forms in place. Then he pulled out the two forms from inside, and followed that by placing one of the cold wet packing things up my nose to clean it out. We sat there a while and chatted some more about skin stuff, then he took out the packing, very gently finished cleaning the area, then said, “I’ll bet you want to see.” Now this may sound weird, but I actually wasn’t that interested in seeing. I said, sure, and he held up a mirror for me. This was a very odd moment. I’d done the nose thinking I really didn’t need to, so the outcome wasn’t nearly as important as the jaw. It’s kind of the way that I really didn’t care about the trachea because I knew the forehead was so much more important. In fact, when I look at the totally healed trachea, I think it looks a lot better, but it wasn’t as dramatic as I’d expected. I went in thinking the nose wouldn’t be that dramatic. It was definitely smaller– I’d known to expect that because when I’d cross my eyes and look at the splint, it was alreayr smaller than my old nose, even with the splint on. The bump at the bridge was gone, and it wasn’t as pointed. It also didn’t seem as flared as before. The tip looked different, but wasn’t what I’d expected. I was pleased, but not thrilled like the forehead. That was an incredible difference. This was less pronounced, and I sort of had the feeling I get sometimes after a haircut– that feeling where you’re not sure you like it or not. It was unquestionably feminine, and much better, but it wasn’t what I had been thinking in my head. All I said was “Cool.” As each day has passed since, I like it more and more, but I still look and try to decide what I had been envisioning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did it, but it wasn’t as high a priority for me as getting the forehead and jaw done. Also, I know the nose will continue to heal and change over the next few months. He gave me instructions on exercises to do to my nose while it’s healing. One is to symmetrically rub one finger from the bridge of the nose down both sides toward the cheekbones. The other is to start with one finger just above the tip of the nose and with slow movement and steady pressure, run it up the bridge till I get between the eyebrows. I was told to do this 7 or 8 times a day, so I do it whenever I think about it.

As far as the jaw, it’s getting easier to tell that I’m going to be very pleased. If I pull the skin tight at the back corners, it looks exactly as I’d hoped: the outward flaring is gone, and it has a very graceful line. When I clench my teeth, it doesn’t give me that square-jawed action-hero look. I’m already thrilled with that. The chin will take much longer to tell, but it’s clearly not as vertically tall. The hard marble-sized knots on my jawline right below each corner of my mouth have gotten a bruise that is speckled with darker bruising. They don’t hurt, though– in fact, Dr. O said I can ride my bike to work when I return, as the helmet strap won’t be a problem while I’m healing. If I press my fingers on either side of the knots, I can get a sense of the jawline I’ll end up with. The skin on my chin is numb in a triangle-shaped pattern, with the point at my lower lip, and angling toward the two knots on my jawline. Most of the lower lip is fine, which makes for a very interesting sensation when drinking from a cup. It feels like there’s an indentation in the cup– like someone handed me a dribble glass. The first time I used a glass I actually pulled it away from my mouth to look at it. Like the partial numbness on my bottom front six teeth, I suspect[ it will improve as did the forehead and scalp last year.

In the room, I took a very long, very wonderful hot shower and let the water run on my face for the first time in over a week. I inhaled through my nose to moisten and soften any of the stuff inside. I tried to open my pores by sitting in the steam for a while. Dr. O instructed me not to scrub my nose with a washcloth. It’s a bit tender, and the tip is numb and very hard. I expect this will subside over the following months.

I was done taking pain medicine. I counted and found I’d used 28 of the 40 Vicodin I’d been prescribed, many of them prior to eating over the last week to deal with the throat soreness.

Sunday, December 21

I noticed a tender spot while doing my nose-rubbing exercises. It’s a tiny protrusion on the left side of my nose, almost straight down from the inner corner of my eye. Sleeping on my side is no problem, although I’m still a bit paranoid about leaning on my nose. In fact, when I do anything, I have that paranoia similar to when you get a new car and are extra cautious about bumping it into anything. I spent the day with friends– had brunch, then to MOMA, which had an interesting exhibit of police photos among other things, then some quick burritos before heading out to see “Titanic.” A long day, and no problems with fatigue or pain. In fact, I can open my mouth much further now. I did a lot more smiling and laughing than I’d done, which used a few muscles still healing. A big toothy smile still isn’t quite possible– it pulls at stuff inside my nose and on my chin that doesn’t seem like it should be stress tested yet. Inner jaw and inside cheeks back near the molars is still a bit bumpy and swollen, and there are a couple of tender spots, but overall it’s not that noticeable. The swelling at the two points just below the corners of my mouth is still quite hard and pronounced. The muscles on my chin are still tight, and moving my lower lip in certain ways is not possible. For instance I can’t curl down my lower lip to expose my lower teeth, and puckering my lips is not impossible, but it feels weird.

Monday, December 22

I’m still waking up with a sore throat. Had Barb take some after photos. bruising on lower neck almost gone. Throat still noticeable, although it’s the reverse of before– the trachea was unbruised before while the rest looked bruised, Now, the trachea is bruised, and the rest looks good. There’s just tiny amount under my eyes. After my shower this morning, a couple of half-inch long catgut-like suture pieces were dislodged from my nose. I still have some large scabs inside my nose, but I don’t want to disturb them. Sometimes they get rather itchy, so I do my q-tip trick.

I should also mention that having a splint on my nose for eight days really did a number on my complexion

Tuesday, December 23

I’d had a very interesting conversation with my work partner about events since I left. It looks like I can expect an even more hectic January than I’d thought, since we sold a commercial that they want to have as an option to run on the Super Bowl. That means I’ll probably have to wait until after the third week in January to come out at work. Luckily, the shoot dates won’t interfere with the court date for my name change. Oh, and healing continues. Still waking up with mildly sore throat, and swallowing is a bit uncomfortable. Beyond that, I don’t think bout it much. I like the nose more every day, and the chin is looking better each day.

Wednesday, December 24

Up at 7:00 for a chat with Dr. Ousterhout about options for treating my skin. He talked me out of lasers in my case. I had a hellish 11 hour plane ride back to Chicago.

January 1998

I spent the next week resting. Chewing was difficult with hard things. Sutures in front hurt.

By 1/12 the numbness was gone in my front teeth. I was back at work, and the swelling was down to unnoticeable levels, though I had a bit of a double chin look that remains to a mild degree. Got some peppercorns in lower gum incision after ripping a suture. Ouch, things swelled up, too, very painful.

It remained hard to blow my nose from months, and to this day it gets clogged more easily. Also to this day, if I press down at the right corner of my mouth, I get a tingling sensation in my lower front teeth much like when foot falls asleep. When I brush my lower teeth, my lip tingles a bit. This change in sensation is a little odd, but I’ve gotten used to it, and it’s certainly not a big deal.

Overall, I’m pleased with the chin and jaw, but it wasn’t as dramatic for me as other face work I did.

Things to bring:

  • –Baby shampoo– my new forehead caused shampoo to run into my eyes in ways I wasn’t expecting.
  • –Contacts if you wear glasses
  • –I’d buy groceries at the Safeway and keep them in the fridge.
  • Get soft stuff like applesauce, jello, yogurt, pudding, ice cream. I found ice cream hurt my throat, which REALLY hurt after the jaw work. Warm soup and cool fruit juice was good, too.
  • –The cafeteria is serviceable, and there’s good restaurants nearby if you feel like venturing out. If not, have Mira give you a Waiters on Wheels catalog and get room service.
  • bottle with attached straw
  • –Q-tips
  • lotion
  • –a scarf and sunglasses
  • –the microwave totally sucks, so if you want to cook something, it’s not much good beyond instant soup or tea
  • –very comfy sweats or a robe (whatever you lounge around in)
  • wide-necked tops
  • –pepto bismol and a laxative. I found the anesthesia gave me one set of digestive troubles, and the soft foods gave me another.
  • –A reusable microwaveable plastic cup and bowl. Steal silverware from the cafeteria or get plastic from a restaurant before surgery. Keep the bowl full of ice from the nurse’s station.
  • –Some books and magazines, stuff you can pick up and put down.
  • –Tunes if you find music helpful
  • — I did a lot of writing on my laptop. If you plan to bring one and do online stuff, bring al the phone cords and junk.
  • –an inflatable neck pillow (optional) like those horseshoe-shaped ones people use on planes
  • –button-up tops or things you can step into. You don’t want anything with small neck holes.
  • –vaseline (for lips)


  • Elevate the bed as much as possible when sleeping. I think this helps reduce bruising.
  • There’s a room with a tub to the left of the door to the nurse’s station. I never used it, but someone said it was nice to soak, since you can’t get your face wet. I was just careful in the shower.
  • Use the suction thing next to the bed after surgery as much as humanly possible. Don’t swallow any mucus, blood, phlegm, etc if you can avoid it. Before drinking water, use a little to wet your mouth, then use the suction thing to get rid of it. Don’t swallow that first mouthful. I think this helps avoid nausea and digestive troubles.
  • If you feel nauseous a day or two after surgery, I recommend trying a mild laxative like milk of magnesia tablets. Worked for me both times, and brought back my appetite.
  • Take a pain pill a half hour before eating if your throat hurts. This made swallowing more tolerable.
  • I found that after a few days, even though hot soup hurt at first to swallow, it really helped my throat feel better.
  • Brush your teeth several times a day to help avoid infection.
  • Ask for Cipro instead of Keflex antibiotic. Keflex makes me shudder to think about the horrible taste of the Keflex burps I’d have. They were nearly enough to make me vomit.
  • Tell the nurse you want pain medicine, even if you don’t feel pain. It’s fun, it helps you sleep, and you paid for it anyway. Free morphine I.V. rules!
  • My lips got EXTREMELY chapped the first few days, to the point of cracking and bleeding. You may want to put vaseline on them often to avoid this, since you’ll be breathing through your mouth a lot.
  • Breathing through your mouth for a few days SUCKS! I was really tired of it by the end.