Part 2: Thirty Days Out (to “The Surgery”)

Docs, docs, and more docs.

As mentioned prior, all medical clearances, recommendations and referrals have to be dated to be within 30 days of the surgical date. But in reality, its a little more condensed than that. You really only have the first 3 weeks in that 30 days, because you need to allow some fluff time in order to allow time for the information to be transferred and sent up to your medical team where you are having the surgery. (In my case, New York City.) And that’s where the real fun begins.

Medical Record Transfers

You would think that in today's technological computer driven society, that this wouldn’t be a problem…but it is! The first thing you become to realize is that we really don’t have a common or national health system. What we really have is a bunch of semi-independent medical systems and they don’t really talk to each other. Not to mention, that medical records come with restrictions. They are private and sensitive information with legal limitations on how they can be shared. Its not like you can just send them via an email attachment.

  • St Lukes (SLHN in the Lehigh Valley)
  • Lehigh Valley Health Network (MYLVHN/Coordinated Health)
  • AthenaHealth
  • Einstien (CernerHealth — Philadelphia)
  • LMG Family Practice (NextMD)
  • Theranest

If anything could go wrong, it definitely did…

Reading through the medical clearances fiasco above and all of the issues with that, you would think that would provide enough stress…but that wasn’t even the half of it.

Transportation problems

One of my care takers had an electric car and had some concerns about bringing it due to the length of time and lack of charging stations nearby. So, I suggested they could use my vehicle, since I would be bringing it with me. But, there was an issue, I have a stick. Ok, problem solved, I also have a truck, which is an automatic. Next problem….the truck fails inspection and its going to cost to much money and too much time to get it fixed before it would need to come with me for the surgical trip. OK, contingency plan activated, I now have no choice but to bring the car…and I will teach them how to drive a stick if I have too.

Computer issues

My new computer has developed a electrical short and crashes every time you touch it in a certain place. This started two months out….and the manufacturer is finally acknowledging it is not a software issue. They have agreed to fix it after I ship it to them…but when it returns as fixed, its get left in the rain outside by the shipper. Computer seems undamaged inside the soaking wet box…but its still not fixed. Same exact problem as before. After further arguments and convincing that the shipper did not cause a new problem, they finally agree to take it back and have one more look. They find the issue (supposedly) but its return gets delayed. I desperately call them everyday to get a hold of them to change the return shipping address, because that problem has now spilled into my surgery trip. So I now need them to ship it to my hotel in New Jersey…I eventually get a hold of them and finally get it redirected. (I didn’t want it sitting out in the weather at my house for 3 months…)

Dog sitter

I get notified, there is problem with the dog sitter. She has to go out of town for emergency business trip and will not be able to watch the dog for the first 10 days. She apologizes and reassures me that she is still good for the rest of the time… A quick call to my normal dog sitter and make arrangements to have her cover the first 10 days and if she wouldn’t mind handling the hand off of the dog to my friend. She’s available and happy to do it. I put the two in touch with each other. Contingency plan engaged and another crisis averted….

Pharmacy Issues

Pharmacy from North Jersey calls, my prescriptions are ready to be picked up. Only issue is…its still 30 days out. I call them up and say I won’t be in to pick them up for a month and it seems a little early. They apologize that the pharmacist didn’t see the date on the request. Crisis averted…or so I thought….more later.

The bike crash

I had planned on bike racing all the way up till my surgery date. That plan changed 3 weeks out, when after a race, while returning to the sign up table, my front tire dropped into an unmarked grate. I hit the ground hard, landing on left elbow and knee. I received some medical attention on site…and this news manage to make it all the way to New York with no problem. (Sure, these were the only medical records that seemed to have no problem communicating across providers…) I then received a phone call from New York and I was yelled at. Why was I doing these risky behaviors? If I would have broken something (nearly did), surgery would have been canceled. I was told that I was absolutely no longer allowed any more racing/biking. This was very hard the last couple of weeks. I still went to the races I had planned on doing, only I sat on the side lines, took pictures, and cheered for my friends who were still racing. 4 months later, I would find out that I had bent the rim when it went into that grate…

Hotel problems

We finally get to move in day. I pack up the no A/C Honda with the busted windshield and drive to New Jersey. The plan is to move in and go to the pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions, only there’s a problem. Room they have for me is a smoking room, on a smoking floor. Did I mention that smoking was one of things I was going to be tested for at check in time for surgery, and it would be canceled if I had any traces of tobacco use. I am absolutely livid and the room (and entire hotel) stinks to the high heavens. I do not want to spend my recovery there. I am very vocal about the screw up and I threaten them that I will sue them if this jeopardizes my surgery. They first argue that I requested it (yeah right!), but then understand the mix up. They will try to do their best to find an alternative, but they don’t have anything else available right now.

Things start to finally turn around

I returned back to the hotel from breakfast when the Front Desk stopped me. They had found an alternative if I was interested. Hell Yeah! ….only problem is, now I have to move. I pack everything up in lighting speed…and I contact a friend Corinne, who sends out the message to let everyone know I am now moving hotels. Goodbye East Rutherford, hello Secaucus!

There’s a last time for everything…

There were things I thought I should do before I couldn’t do them anymore…. At this late hour, I realized I had not done a single one of them. They were stupid little things, like standing to pee. I had only done it once (outside on a bike trail) since I had started HRT years ago. But, believe it or not…every time I went to the bathroom, I just couldn’t do it. It had become second nature just to sit and I was doing it now for years without even thinking.

Down to the final hours…

At 4:30 PM I get another call from Elsa. She wants to know how the prep is going….I’m working on it. I joke about being on the beach and she interrupted my bathing in the sun time. She is happy that my attitude is getting better and has some great news for me. She finally has the info from the Cardiologist and the anesthesiologist is happy. The surgery is a go!



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Christine Penn

Christine Penn


Trans woman, parent, cyclist, software engineer, author, chef, and many other things.