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I arrived at nine o'clock sharp and walked into the fanciest doctors office I've ever seen. Dark green plush carpet , tasteful antiques, about a million dollars worth of art on the wall. The receptionist asked me to have a seat and said that the doctor was running a little late today.
My stomach was doing the most interesting things down there. As is usual in surgery I had been asked not to eat before coming in. It might have also had something to do with the fact that I've never had any surgery done before and the thought that this was the first big unalterable step on the way to becoming the woman I've always needed to be.
As I sat there, worrying, thinking about all the things that could go wrong, I could still hear Dr. Mayer going through the list of possible complications on my first visit, things like, scarring, infection, trouble swallowing, and five or six other things I can't remember. The one that scared me the most though, was that my voice might just return to it's old pitch sometime after surgery. He said what ever happened there was no way to fix it again and that I'd be stuck with the way it turns out, good or bad. He made it clear that he wasn't making any promises, or guaranteeing anything.
I asked Dr. Mayer, exactly what he was going to do to make my voice change. He told me the technique was his idea, and that only he and god could do this, and that neither of them was going to tell anyone else. He said he was afraid that if he told how it was done, some fool who wasn't as good as he was would try it and screw it up. Then the technique would get a bad name. Well OK, I didn't like that much, but squeamish as I am I'm probably better off not knowing.
I must have set in that waiting room for at least two hours, though it seemed more like a week. Finally a nurse came and took me to a room and got me into one of those cute little hospital nighties. Then I was off to the operating room. I sat there for a long time, shivering, wondering if this is just a dream. Then the nurse came back and started doing all those nurse things, installing all kinds of wires and sensors all over me. When she'd finished she told me to take it easy, don't worry, and don't pay any attention to the things the Dr. said to her during the operation. She said it would sound like every thing was going wrong, but that this was just the way Dr. Mayer was during surgery, and it was really going to turn out fine. I was to speak when he told me to and there would be times he would ask me not to swallow. I had no idea how hard that would be. She covered my eyes and the rest of me except for my neck and in came the doctor.
As soon as he came in he asked the nurse "did you give her your little talk". She said she had and then he asked me to speak into a mini tape recorder for a few seconds. He then began to shoot me up with a local anesthesia all around my Adam's apple and started drawing on my throat with a felt pen.
As soon as I was good and numb he began to cut. The incision was about two inches long, it followed a line that already existed on my neck so it wouldn't show later. As he cut he used an electric device to stop the bleeding. I could hear lots of sizzling and the sound of his scalpel. I began to wish they had put me out entirely.
From the time Dr. Mayer walked into the room, It had seemed he was in a foul mood, and though he was always polite to me , he was incredibly rude to his nurse. This got worse and worse as we went along. I, of course, couldn't see what was going on, but from the sound of it he just couldn't get what he wanted from her. He'd say "OK, pull it up this way, no that's too far, come on get it right honey." "I can't do this if you can't do what I tell you". "NO, that's not right I can't see". "Please honey, this is getting all screwed up, if this doesn't work its all your fault". "Don't be stupid, pull it over here". It got so bad I couldn't see how she kept from punching him out right then and there.
This all went on for about an hour. Sometimes it hurt a lot but I didn't say anything because I didn't think I could talk. I could feel him suturing something that was very tough in my throat. I think he broke several needles doing it. He kept repeating "don't swallow, don't swallow". I tried to keep from it but the urge was incredible. Sometimes I couldn't stop and he'd say "OH SHIT, DON'T SWALLOW", you've got to stop swallowing. As he worked, he'd ask me to say something. I'd try to talk, some squeaky noises would come out, and he'd put in another stitch.
Finally he said "that's as far as I can go, it sounds pretty good". I wasn't so sure, but I was so relieved that it was over, I didn't argue. In a few minutes I was stitched up and he was gone. It felt like there was a huge lump in my throat when I swallowed, and it seemed like I was going to choke, but I fought the urge because the thought of gagging and coughing scared me to death.
The nurse got me up and cleaned me off, and back into my dress. She took such good care of me that I started to feel a little better. She gave me the post op instructions and I was out the door.
There I was, in downtown Beverly Hills, feeling sick, scared and lost. Here's one point of advise, don't do anything like this alone. I found my rental car and sat there for a while just trying to breathe and get my head together enough to drive. I needed to eat so I stopped in at a fast food joint for lunch, which I promptly threw up in the parking lot. I didn't like that much, but it didn't hurt as much as I thought it was going to. I felt a good bit better after that, and I went back to my room to see if I could sleep.
The doctor had asked me not to turn my head side to side or tilt it back for at least two weeks. this made driving in the big city kind of tough. I had a lot of pills to take for pain and swelling and to prevent infection. It figures, the antibiotic he gave me was a pill that would choke a horse, but I managed to get them down anyway.
If you should ever get desperate enough to try this crazy operation, there are some things you should know. The first is that no matter what anyone tells you, it hurt. It hurt a lot for the first two weeks, and for the next two it felt like I had a cramp in my throat. The pain is almost gone now after six weeks, but my voice is still hoarse most of the time. I don't think that I was one of Dr. Mayer's big successes, they said that the goal was to give me a voice that sounded female on the phone. I still have trouble convincing people on the phone that my name is Sarah, but as I get back more and more control of my voice, it's slowly getting better. At first I had almost no dynamic range. Now I've gained back about half the range I had originally and I feel it stretching a little every day.
The voice modification surgery, as its called, cost $4,000 not including travel and expenses. They ask that you stay in town for at least two days after surgery, so they can check up on you.
Looking back, though the whole ordeal was as hard as anything I've ever done, I'm very glad I did it. The change I got wasn't all I had hoped for, but it did help a lot. It gave me at least $10,000 worth of confidence. I'm no longer afraid to talk and person to person I seem to pass without question. I feel reborn and my new life feels so right.
If you wish to get more info you can write to the doctor at:
The Beverly Hills Institute
of Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery
416 N. Bedford Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
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