Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On My Own

This guest post was submitted by William following his surgery and is part of a series of posts about his hospital experience.

As my surgery date neared, all my fears bubbled up. How would I explain to those people taking care me how different I am? Will they be able to understand and respect those differences? Am I going to be the patient they are all talking about on their lunch break, or when they are home with their families over dinner?

The more I thought about my concerns, the more I knew I needed someone on my side to help me answer questions and demand the respect and compassion I deserve as a human being going through any medical procedure.

I knew I didn't need help with infection control, or understanding what was happening to me. I had enough background as a Paramedic and hospital technician to cover those areas. But I knew I would need rest and I knew I would need privacy. I knew staff charged with taking care of me, by nature of the surgery I was having, would naturally refer to me using female pronouns. What I needed was someone there to help me with that. I have always found it stressful when someone used female pronouns in reference to me, even as a young child. Since my transition began, that has happened less and less, and I am happy to be living my life as the man I am now.

Thankfully, what I needed is Ilene's work. She has turned her own tragedies into efforts that have improved the outcomes for many, and quite possibly avoided more tragedies from happening. Ilene offered to be my patient safety advocate, and I gratefully accepted her help. She sat vigil by my side the day of my surgery.

Communicating with staff was easy with her there. She told them all I am a man and I never had to deal with the stress of explaining my masculine appearance to anyone. Even though medicine hasn't completely caught up to the idea of a female bodied man, the staff at the small community hospital, because they were educated by my advocate, were respectful and courteous. They always used male pronouns with me and afforded me the privacy I needed.

It was only after Ilene left that anyone questioned me about who I am:

I was walking around the unit, and as I turned the corner a young woman was walking out of my assigned private room. I commented,”You must be looking for me.” “Maybe,” she replied hesitantly. I put my arm forward to show her my ID band. “I'm Will.” The young woman told me she was from the dietary department, and she is a nutrition student. She asked how my appetite was, and if I had any special dietary needs or requests. “No thanks,” I replied, “I am eating well.”

With that she nodded and then a perplexed look spread across her face. Her face became flushed, and she posed the question in the best way she could: she was doing her job, ensuring she had the right patient. I sensed her embarrassment as she spoke,” I'm sorry, may I ask you a personal question?” I nodded and braced myself against the wall in the hall. “Are you a woman?”
“No, I'm a transgender man.”

Later that day, my catheter was removed, and the nurse had asked me to urinate into a “hat” placed in the toilet to keep track of my urine output. The hat was full, it was change of shift for the ancillary staff, and I needed to empty my bladder. I pulled the cord in the bathroom. Staff quickly responded. I asked the woman if she could empty the hat for me and be sure to record my urine output. She donned gloves and emptied the hat, then tossed it into the trash can. “Here we go again, I thought,” as she pointed to the urinal bottle hanging in the bathroom, she explained I could use the bottle. “No I can't,” I tried and was interrupted. “Yes go ahead and put it in there, OK?”

“No, I'm a transgender man. I am female bodied. I cannot just put it into the bottle, I need the hat.” She never replaced the hat. No one ever asked me about my urine output.

She didn't listen to me. Maybe she knows Pink Lady.

No comments: