I grew up in the pretty Island of Jersey in a happy and caring family.
From my very early teens I fell in love with aeroplanes and would spend every spare minute at the Airport. Not surprisingly aviation was to become the backdrop of my life and I would go on to pursue a long and successful career in the Airline Industry.
On the face of it everything appeared perfectly normal and stable but unfortunately the truth was somewhat different. From a very early age I had not sat entirely comfortably in my gender. All my best friends at primary school had been girls and I felt extremely content and happy in their company. I loved to read my sisters' ballet books and dream of being a ballerina and of course, once I was exposed to the Airline scene, I wanted nothing more than to be a glamorous Air Stewardess. Dressing in girls clothes had started as early as age 7. As I got into my teens I started to analyse my situation and came to the conclusion that I must be some kind of pervert. The dressing continued but I felt deeply ashamed.
I married at the age of 20 convinced, in the words of Jennifer Finney Boylan, that I could be cured by love. Unfortunately this was merely papering over the cracks and was doomed to failure as was a subsequent marriage. I met Julia in 1989 and my third marriage followed two years later. This time I did find real happiness but sadly it was not enough, my doubts about my gender had become unbearable by the mid 1990s and it was obvious that I would have to seek professional help or go under.
Really the turning point was when I was finally able to admit to myself what I was. There was a time when I was happy to think of myself as a TV, somehow this seemed easier to deal with than facing up to the real truth. Nonetheless, once I had finally owned up to myself, I found that suddenly everything seemed perfectly clear and it was obvious what I had to do.
I first visited my GP in June 2004 and was blessed with a person who was fully understanding and willing to help. I was referred to Dr Webster's Sexual Problems Clinic (what a name)! at the Manchester Royal Infirmary attending for my one and only consultation in November 2004. They immediately referred me to Dr Green at The Gender Identity Clinic, Claybrooke Centre, Charing Cross, where I was seen on 6th June 2005. I found this a totally miserable and humiliating experience and immediately decided that this was not for me.
Several weeks later I attended my first appointment with Dr Russell Ried who was caring and compassionate and quickly set me on the road I needed to take. Feminising Hormone treatment commenced in October 2005 and I found to my delight that I quickly experienced breast growth. I responded well to the hormones, they seemed to set my emotions in balance with who I was. When Dr Ried retired my care was taken over by Dr Richard Curtis.
I legally became Kirsty on 25th April 2006 and immediately commenced the real-life test. Unfortunately in the preceding few years my work-life had fallen in to disarray. The Airline that I had worked for 21 years had ceased operations in 2003. I managed to secure several other jobs but the message coming through was loud and clear, they did not want a freak like me in their midst. Thus I retrained as a Driving Instructor.
In the autumn of 2006 I commenced feminising speech therapy with Gwyn Richards at Macclesfield District Hospital. Gwyn was a wonderful person with a true vocation and was always willing to go that extra mile. She also introduced me to Jill!
And so to 2007 and on 31st May I successfully underwent Gender Reassignment Surgery and Breast Augmentation with the inspired Dr Sanguan Kunaporn at the Phuket International Hospital. The 5 weeks that I spent in Thailand on that occasion were amongst the happiest period of my life.
So to today. I am now a happy and contented girl working with an all-girl driving school based in Bramhall. It has been a long and difficult path but my only regret was that I was not brave enough to tread it sooner.
During 2008 Kirsty decided to have surgery on her face to make it more feminine and made arrangements to return to Thailand to have the procedures carried out. The rest of this article is a report of her experiences in Thailand which she emailed to me in a number of stages. I have put them together to enable them to be read as a continuous story.
Just days before Kirsty went to Thailand she attended the Manchester Concord Christmas meal at Eden and here is a photograph of her at that event, Mary.
I arrived in the Kingdom, as planned, on Wednesday 10th December, just as the Capital’s airport, Savrnabhumi, was getting back to normal. This was good news for me as not only had it eased my travel plans, which until a few days before looked to be in disarray, but it also enabled me to chill out at my airport hotel for a week and watch the myriad of departing aircraft. From my own personal viewpoint, sheer bliss.
My first Medical Procedure was set for Thursday 18th December and thus I had a whole week to relax and try not to think too much about the enormous undertaking ahead. Upon arrival I had gone to the nearest 7-11 (luckily there was one at the end of our street) and purchased a Thai Sim card. This enabled me to keep in regular contact with Jill at a fraction of the cost, Thai mobile to mobile calls being ridiculously cheap.
My limited Thai stood me in good stead and I soon made friends with a number of locals in the street near to my hotel. At the end of the road were a motorcycle taxi rank and a restaurant. At the end of a hard day’s labour, workers from both would gather for a beer and on only my second night there, I was invited to join them. Amongst these was an attractive guy named Santit who took a particular shine to me and on the Friday evening asked me to accompany him to the local market. All manner of wares were on sale at really low prices and it was absolutely fascinating looking round at the vast range of goods. Several more pleasant, beer fuelled evenings followed with the motorcycle taxi folk. I also made friends with a couple who had recently returning from living in Geneva and run a nearby restaurant. Here one could eat a delicious, especially prepared Thai meal for as little as THB40 (just under a pound).
I also followed up an invitation to visit The Bangkok Student Driver Education Centre who has been tasked by the Thai Government to reduce the number of road deaths amongst the young, especially motor cycle riders. It was a most informative visit and they were particularly interested in the lesson plans and techniques that we employ in the UK. They have asked if I can help facilitate getting their Instructors either a UK or Australian qualification. I stated that I did not know whether I would be able to do anything but I would certainly do all I could to help.
And so the day arrived and at 0900 I reported to Dr Chettawut’s clinic in downtown Bangkok. He had already outlined the procedures that he considered necessary to achieve a feminine face but now he went through each one in detail and also undertook a thorough examination of my face. He had hitherto not considered it necessary for me to have a trachea shave, but once he manipulated my face into the position that it would be after surgery, he decided that this was a must.
The examination over, without further ado, I was taken through to the operating theatre where under local sedation, I had upper eyelid surgery and the afore mentioned trachea shave. All went well and in a little over two hours the procedures had been completed. After a short period of recuperation I was driven to the nearby Baan Siri Hotel which was to be my home for much of the next week. I have to say that I was fairly disappointed with the place. It was in a run down industrial area of Bangkok with little of merit round about. Yet by the way some of the girls on the Dr Chettawut’s Girls Club Support site waxed on about it, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was Utopia.
Friday 19th December, my big, big day. 10 hours of facial surgery which were to be carried out by Dr Chettawut at the Piyavate Hospital. I was collected from the Hotel at 0900 and driven the short distance to the state-of-the-art hospital and after an efficient admission process was quickly shown to my room. Most of my pre-op tests had been carried out in the UK so I had merely to undergo Chest and Head x-rays before I found myself being prepared for what would be the biggest operation of my life.
My Operation was set for 1300. By 1030 I had had the required x-rays and was sat in my hospital room wired up to a saline drip. Having not been allowed food or drink since midnight, the re-hydrating effect of the drip was greatly appreciated. The anaesthetist dropped by, an extremely personable young man, who went through all the usual checks and then explained what he would do.
Today I was to undergo four major procedures, forehead contouring (this is where they remove the forehead section of your skull, reshape it into a more pleasing female shape and then re affix it using titanium screws. As part of this process I would also undergo scalp advancement surgery, so bringing my hairline forward. I was to have reduction rhinoplasty, basically I would be getting a smaller less masculine nose. The space between my upper lip and my nose was also to be reduced and the whole process was going to be rounded off with a full face and neck lift. When the Doctor had asked me what I was hoping for I had told him that I wanted him to undertake the bare minimum in order to give me a passing feminine profile. This attitude seemed to please him and he seemed to be very much of the school that less is more. It seems that a lot of girls turn up with vast expectations demanding all kinds of drastic procedures which are probably not best suited to them. Any form of Facial Feminization Surgery comes with a high risk of subsequent complications. Permanent loss of feeling in certain areas of the face, are not unusual. This problem is a particular threat if surgery is undertaken around the lower mandible area. Blocked sinus drainage is another potential threat. So basically the less that one goes for, the less the risk.
It is now of course that nagging doubts started to creep in. Was my face really so bad? Did I really need to be subjecting myself to all this torment? I headed for the bathroom so that I might check my face in the mirror, being ever so careful not to snag the saline plumbing that was delicately buried into my left wrist. I was well aware that the eye procedures from the previous day would have caused some swelling but the sight that greeted me as I attempted to peer into the mirror was something of a shock. Both eyes were swollen beyond recognition and I looked like I had been repeatedly pummelled about the face for several hours by Mike Tyson.
Needless to say I did not linger too long at the mirror but instead returned to my bed and tried unsuccessfully to relax. I told myself that it would be all right, I would come through this and I would be able to blend seamlessly into society which after all, was the whole point of the exercise.
Fortunately I was afforded little further time to dwell on such matters as at 1130 the Porter arrived to wheel me up to the Operating theatre. A last minute panic broke out when it was realized that my toe-nails were still painted, apparently these need to be clear so that the Doctor can pick up changes in the pinking. My choice of colour scheme brought a smile to the face of the nursing assistant who had been asked to remove the offending colour. I had shown due respect to my host Country by painting the left nails blue and the right ones red!
They needed me in the operating theatre early as it would take sometime to prepare my hair. It would have to be carefully platted all along the hair-line where the incisions were to be made. Three nurses set to work on this task which took best part of an hour to complete. Already that morning I had been obliged to wash my hair in strong antiseptic shampoo, a disgusting pink liquid which had the consistency of superglue.
Finally all was ready, which was just as well as my back was starting to really suffer having been laying on the narrow confines of the operating table for so long. The gentle, soothing voice of the anaesthetist told me that I would be going to sleep. The lights went out!
It was as if someone had pushed the pause button on the DVD remote control, for what seemed to me like seconds later, I was being told to wake up. “It is all over now Kirsty, you can wake up now”. Dr Chettawut had toiled away on my face for 10 hours but of course I had had absolutely no perception of this. I didn't want to wake up, I was happy being asleep where I could be comfortable with no risk of pain. Now I was being summoned back to the harsh lights of the operating theatre, my mouth was so dry that I could not communicate, my eyes so swollen that whilst I could discern light, I could not actually focus on anything. And someone was offering me a sip of water through a straw. I needed to sit up. I could not drink in a horizontal position, I would choke. But as I was wheeled through into the I.C.U they continued to beckon. I gave in and took a sip on the straw, my mouth appeared to be full of mucus and I could not swallow but still I was encouraged to drink. This was a big mistake as seconds later I found myself vomiting, not just a normal sickness but positive projectile vomiting. The whole of my front seemed to be covered and despite my obvious discomfort, I was acutely embarrassed and offered profuse apologies. The nurses took it all in their stride; they had seen it all so many times before. There is always a positive note; yes my throat was unbelievably dry. Yes I had just embarrassed myself by spreading vomit around like a crop-sprayer. Yes I could not see, but there was no discernable pain.
I spent a total of two nights in the Piyavate Hospital but this whole period is shrouded in a hazy mist. For much of the time I was effectively blind because of the swelling around my eyes and the sticky discharge which effectively sealed my eyelids. I had also found it impossible to re-hydrate. A concerted effort on the Saturday evening to take on sufficient water to relief the permanent dryness in my throat had merely given rise to another embarrassing bout of projectile vomiting. I am not generally a sickly person but at the moment I was throwing up for England! My limited command of the Thai language had not been sufficient to convey to the nurses the distress I was enduring due to my reduced vision. Periodically I had been presented with chicken broth which I was encouraged to drink through a straw but my lack of vision had precluded what should have been a straight forward process. Also, if I was going to be perfectly honest, my appetite was almost non-existent.
Just when I thought I could stand it no-longer Dr Chettawut had arrived on the scene like a guardian angel and within seconds a nurse was removing the blinding mucus from my eyes. Finally I could see, whilst not 20/20 vision, at least enough to function. I was able to finally turn on my mobile phones and restore some contact with the outside World. A stream of messages on my Thai phone indicated that Jill had desperately been seeking news of my plight. I quickly phoned her and was able to assure her that I was ok. It was wonderful to hear her friendly and encouraging voice. Julia, who had phoned the hospital on the day of my operation, had also been anxious for further news and finally I was able to update her and set her mind at rest. Dr Chettawut counselled me to eat and readily agreed to my request for ice cream. The soothing effect of the cool strawberry desert did wonders for my throat in the short term and I had the added bonus that I could actually see what I was eating.
I was discharged from the Piyavate Hospital at lunch-time on Sunday 21st December and taken back to my room at the Baan Siri Hotel where rest seemed the order of the day. This was by no means a straight forward process however as the amount of bandaging around my head made it extremely difficult to adopt a comfortable position to sleep. The reason for my extremely dry throat became readily apparent when I looked in the mirror. My nose was effectively concealed by a protective layer of plasters and each nostril had been packed with gauze to help keep the new shape. This meant that the only way to breathe was through my mouth, the air-conditioning at both the hospital and the hotel merely serving to increase the dryness. My forehead was tightly bound with a 4 inch wide elastic bandage which was held securely in place by a tight blue head-band. This in turn was secured by a beige Velcro bandage that fitted over the head a bit like a rubber diving helmet. This latter device whilst effective was extremely uncomfortable giving one the feeling of having hands permanently around one’s throat. I usually sleep on my side but with all this about my head such ideas were impossible. That said it was uncomfortable but there was no pain.
From the Monday I was visited by two very dedicated nurses from Dr Chettawut’s clinic who each day carefully cleaned my eyes and nose and made sure that my bandages were fresh and secure. On the Tuesday the stitches were removed from my eyes and the suffocating packaging was removed from my nose. From this point on the stickiness around my eyes became less severe and I was able to win the battle against the dryness in my throat. Thursday was a land-mark day when for the first time the bandaging around my head was removed completely and I was allowed to wash my hair. This was an incredibly slow and difficult process as my hair was literally stuck solid to my head by matted blood and various surgical fluids. Bit by bit, however, I was able to free the tangled strands and restore some life to my once proud golden locks. There is nothing like a hair wash in such circumstances to reinvigorate one’s self! Next I had to pay careful attention whilst I was shown how to carefully refit the head bandages. I would need to keep these in place for the next six weeks, removing them each morning whilst I attended to my ablutions. Needless to say the first few attempts proved extremely difficult and one had to take a very deep breathe to keep frustration at bay. Gradually, however, I worked out a method that worked well and with practice I quickly came quite proficient. That Thursday also saw the removal of the stitches from my nose and some of those from the sides of my head.
More significantly Thursday also happened to be Christmas Day and I spent what can only be described as a bizarre Christmas evening. I elected to eat in the Hotel Restaurant (there was little else on offer near by) and was dismayed to find that I was the only westerner in the place. It was the Hotel entertainment (or what passed for it) that really was a wonder to behold. The Hotel boasted a Ball-Room Dancing Studio and the “stars” of this were the main-stay of the evening’s revue. It was effectively a case of Siam meets Strictly Come Dancing but here John Sergeant would have been light years ahead of any of the talent on show. Believe me the standard of dancing at Napoleons is vastly superior to anything to be seen here. Music was provided by a Thai Singer who mainly sung in English but had obviously taken lessons from Jonathon Ross as he was unable to pronounce R’s, instead articulating them as L’s. A number of classics were rolled out including the seasonal favourite standard “A lay of hope when a child is born” and Volari, made famous by the Gipsy Kings. After a while the singer decided to up the tempo by drafting in the assistance of a violinist. This musician, who looked like he had probably been alive to give his first performance to Queen Victoria, was literally wheeled up to the stage and slotted into position. The noise that omitted form the strings was the most unbelievable caterwaul that one has ever had the misfortune to have to hear. Several years ago my daughter had commenced violin lessons but even at lesson one had produced a far more melodious sound than this. He was clearly a star with the locals, however, who hung on his every note. And the evening just got worse, not content with all this mediocrity, it was decided that each of the ballroom dancers would take a turn at the mike. Not one could carry a tune in a bucket. I did not know whether to laugh or cry and I tried to imagine Gigi’s reaction had she been with me. I think that she would either have taken her own life or theirs.
Usually I would have been expected to stay under the care of Dr Chettawut until the 2nd January, but satisfied with my progress he was more than happy to concede to my request to fly south to Phuket on Sunday 28th December. As a prelude to this I attended his clinic on the Saturday morning so that he could have a complete examination of the work and so that some further stitches could be removed. A prominent line of stitches remained along my hair-line and a number on the side of my skull but it was agreed that these would have to remain in place until I returned to Bangkok in the New Year.
Thus at 1200 on Sunday I checked out of the Baan Siri and headed out to Savarnabhumi in order to catch the 1555 Thai Air Asia service to Phuket, my Spiritual Home.
Thai Air Asia is a typical lo-cost airline and needless to say I was bled dry on excess baggage charges. By far a greater trauma than this, however, was the fact that I had to remove my head bandages so that the check-in assistant could verify that I was indeed the person displayed in my passport (albeit a somewhat more feminine looking one!)
Once through security I was free to concentrate on, what at the time, seemed the insurmountable task of replacing the bandage. A quick stop at Boots enabled me to acquire a hair-tie and some white sticky tape and then, with a mounting feeling of apprehension, I headed for the nearest toilet. Things did not go well to start with and I’m afraid to admit that within a short time I became much stressed. Somehow, more by luck than judgment, I managed to wrap the long white bandage around my head and quickly clamp it in position with the blue elasticised vice. Getting the Velcro diving helmet in place, however, on this occasion proved a neigh on impossible task and all I succeeded in doing was dislodging the whole lot. My temper was getting frayed as the scheduled time of my departure was edging ever nearer. Nonetheless I took a deep breath and started again. It was a massive struggle but somehow it was done. During this 30-minute period of obvious torment at least 20 English Girls must have passed by me. A number stared; one even mentioned that I seemed to be in a bit of bother but not one offered to help. I suppose these are the times we live in!
Fortunately this was all soon forgotten as the Boeing 737 climbed away from Bangkok and headed south towards the Island paradise of Phuket. This place will always have a special place in my heart, as it was here, on 31st May 2007, that I was effectively reborn as Kirsty. It was a very special time for me during which I had forged a number of lasting friendships. Now I was returning to “home” to undergo a minor procedure at the hands of my revered Gender Surgeon, Dr Sanguan Kunaporn. It would also give me the opportunity to catch up with several of those special friends.
The flight touched down on-time and I was met at the Airport by Saroj, Dr Sanguan’s Driver who quickly conveyed me to the Baan Suan Place Hotel, conveniently situated adjacent to the Phuket International Hospital. I had stayed here on one previous significant occasion, the night before I had been admitted to hospital for my SRS and Breast Augmentation. Outwardly the hotel was much as I had remembered it although in the interim they had added a whole new wing.
On my first full day in Phuket I decided to head to the nearby beach resort of Patong. Not to sample the sands, as I had been clearly instructed to keep my new face out of the sun, but rather to catch up with old friends. In June 2007, upon discharge from the Phuket International Hospital, it had been to an apartment in Patong Beach that I had gone to recuperate. My first port of call was a small restaurant that had been a regular haunt of Jill and I. The proprietor remembered me and I enjoyed a wonderful Thai lunch of chicken satay. I then skipped round the corner to the Patong Tower, an apartment on the 8th floor of which had been my home during my recovery. The first thing that immediately stuck me was that the entire building had been spruced up; I suppose it had been in need of an external revamp. At the base of the Tower a friend, who immediately commented on my figure, greeted me. "Kirsty, you have lost so much weight!” a statement, that as you can imagine, made me feel a million dollars. And I had indeed lost weight and would continue to do so throughout my stay. By the time I returned home I would have shed a total of 1½-stone.
With her kind words still ringing in my ears I made my way to the far western end of the beach where another Thai friend, Fara, had a beauty clinic and Thai Massage Centre. It had been here during my last visit to Thailand in September 2007 that I had endured probably the most painful experience I had ever had. I had elected to have my eyeliner tattooed and in fairness Fara did an excellent job. But the pain was absolutely indescribable. Forget about any discomfort that one might experience during SRS, this had been two hours of sheer hell. Fortunately this time I was here for nothing more strenuous than a foot massage and a pleasant chat. Fara was extremely impressed with my face and as she gazed round the bandages she exclaimed that I now had a wonderfully feminine face.
The next day, feeling in need of some exercise, I took a leisurely stroll from the Hotel to the nearby Tesco Lotus store, a jaunt of about 20 minutes. It was an extremely hot day and with the extra heat being generated by the bandages around my head, I came over all faint and had to sit down. When I came to I was surrounded by a host of Store Assistants who were all very concerned for my well-being. I checked my blood sugar level, which was fine and was quickly able to reassure them that all would be in order once I had had something to drink.
Suitably recovered I elected to walk on to Phuket Town and visit Dr Sanguan's clinic where drop in consultations were held MON - FRI between the hours of 1730 -1930. I knew the clinic to be adjacent to the Bangkok Phuket Hospital and after checking directions with a local who kindly took me most of the way on the back of her moped, I found the place without difficulty.
There is always a danger of us Girls becoming total in awe of our Gender Surgeons and I'm afraid that I fall squarely into that category. I always find myself coming over all weak at the knees in the presence of Dr. Sanguan. As far as I am concerned he is a giant of Mankind and I will be forever in his debt for his efforts on my behalf. This image is reinforced not only because he is charm itself but also due to the fact that he clearly remembers each of his patients and their particular problems. When I was previously under his care he had had the unique gift of making me feel that I was the only person that mattered in the World.
He greeted me warmly, I underwent a quick examination and once satisfied that all was well he carefully explained the details of a procedure that I had arranged to undergo with on the forthcoming Tuesday. On this day, 6th January, I was to be admitted to the Phuket International Hospital in order to have a labiaplasty. This was a relatively straightforward operation that was to be carried out under local amnesia.
My short consultation over I strolled happily back to my hotel and that night went to the cinema where I was able to watch Madagascar 2 in English. The Thai cinema experience is still rooted in traditions long since vanished in this Country. Before the main performance everyone is expected to stand in order to show due respect to the King.
Wednesday was New Year's Eve and I elected to go to a restaurant at the end of our road called the Farang Restaurant. The word Farang means Western and I suppose in defence of the manic Thai Singer that I encountered in Bangkok I should point out that in most Thai words the letter r is pronounced as the letter l, hence Thai's say the word as Falang. Someone needs to explain to the Bangkok singer that we don't do this with English words! For the first time since my FFS procedures in Bangkok, I allowed myself an alcoholic beverage and it was to this that I wrongly attributed the cause when later that night I was violently sick. It was a mistake that would come back to bite me big time! My meal at the Farang finished sometime before midnight and I had time to nip back to my hotel before seeing in the New Year with a group of locals at a Thai bar. They were extremely friendly and I was given some sparklers to wave around as the clock counted in the New Year.
Thursday was a day that I had been looking forward to for such a long time as my dear friend Jill was coming to visit me. I was not entirely sure what time to expect her and so had elected to sit outside the hotel on a bench and read my book. Without warning there was a gentle tap on my shoulder and I looked round and there she was. It was one of those perfect moments, after an absence of 14 months my best friend was finally with me again. That night we ate at a local Thai Barbeque restaurant. Jill knew exactly how these establishments worked and after procuring her choice of ingredients was soon piling the table-mounted burner with various meats whilst feeding water, noodles and vegetables into a section around the edge to make a delicious soup.
Jill had agreed to show me some of the real beauty of Thailand and thus the following morning we hired a Suzuki Jeep and headed North across the Sarasin Bridge towards Phangnga. About 100 kms from Phuket, this Regional Capital has a distinctive backdrop of a mountain in the shape of an elephant. I was extremely grateful that Jill had agreed to take the wheel as I had not driven in Thailand before and was feeling less than sharp after my surgery. Although she had not driven a car for 20 months and had to get used to the idiosyncrasies of the gearbox on this particular Jeep, this presented no problem to her and we were smoothly conveyed north. Jill had the advantage of knowing exactly where she was going and was also well versed in the frequently bizarre Thai driving habits. Upon arrival at our destination we headed to Phangnga Bay so that we might procure the hire of a boat to take us on a tour that would include James’ Bond Island, famed for its appearance in The Man with the Golden Gun. As we approached the riverside quay, men hawking for business were approaching the Jeep from all sides. Jill calmly parked and then plied up and down the line until she had procured the best price. She is well versed in such negotiations and was able to arrange a 3-hour trip with exclusive use of the boat for THB 1,000. This was a good price and gave us much more flexibility than if we had been obliged to share the boat with up to a dozen other people. After a quick coffee and a toilet break we set off and what would prove to be an idyllic couple of hours. Jill had undertaken this journey on a number of previous occasions and was well versed on the form and was thus able to point out many extra features. It was like having my own personal tour guide. The bay is very dramatic with a myriad of lime-scale stacks, a bit like a tropical version of the needles but on a much larger scale. Where the sea had eroded the undersides of the stacks it was possible to see vast stalactites. Over the years the sea had eroded tunnels through some of the stacks through which it was possible to sail the boat. When one reached the centre they could look up and appreciate that the Island was hollow like a badly decayed tooth. Kayaking under these Islands is promoted as a major activity with daily tours setting out from most major centres in the area. Soon after emerging from the tunnel the iconic sight of James’ Bond Island hove into view. For an additional cost it is possible to stand on the Island and have one’s photograph taken but we were more than content to view it from the tranquillity of our boat.
On our way back we called in at Koh Panyi, the famous Muslim floating village that sits on stilts several metres above sea level. Most popular as a stop-off for lunch we instead elected to explore the numerous market stalls specialising in clothes and locally produced jewellery. There are some truly unique bracelets and necklaces on sale, many made from local coral and seashells. I selected several bracelets and a delightful coral necklace, Jill again coming to the fore to secure a very good price.
Back on dry land it was time for lunch and Jill headed for Mr Satay in Phangnga, a restaurant she knew well that served the finest satay to be had in the area. Then it was on to the final fixture of our day and undoubtedly the most breathtaking as we headed into the Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary. This had always been a favourite Sunday outing for Jill and it was easy to see why. One entered the Park via a giant Buddhist Temple and closely packed rubber trees (the area is awash with dense rubber plantations) before the road climbed through truly lush vegetation giving rise to spectacular views. The Park is popular with tourists for both white water rafting and Elephant trekking. At the end of a long, sometimes precarious drive we parked up the Jeep and continued a short way on foot to visit one of the many beautiful waterfalls in the area.
We carefully weaved our way back out of the park and there was just time to stop off for a refreshing chilled chocolate in a café on the outskirts of Phangnga, before we commenced the 90 minute drive back to Phuket. It had been a truly wonderful day.
Not wishing to go too far after such a tiring day, I made the bad call that we eat at the Farang Restaurant. Tonight it was dreadful, food portions microscopic in size, totally indifferent service and what for me would be the worst consequence of all, a really bad case of food poisoning!
By early next morning I was feeling pretty jaded but at this time there were no obvious indications as to why. I put it down to perhaps overdoing things on the previous day. Jill wished to take the opportunity whilst in Phuket to pop into Robinsons and get herself a new casual handbag (her existing one was slightly the worse for wear) and a pair of cropped trousers. Thus we decided that we would spend a leisurely Saturday on a local shopping expedition. The first problem confronting us was to try and ascertain how to get to the street where we had hired the Jeep, which had to be back by 0930. Fortunately Jill knew Phuket reasonably well and had taken notice of sufficient landmarks in order to accomplish this task with ease. With the Jeep safely returned, we stopped off for breakfast before taking a leisurely stroll up to Robinsons, glancing in many of the shops on the way. Bit by bit, as the day wore on, I was feeling more and more fragile but still I could not pin down a reason as to why. Ever conscious of my diabetic condition, I kept checking my sugar levels, but these were all fine. Jill noticed that I was in something of a daze and indeed several times I had walked right past her without noticing that she was there. At this stage she merely attributed this to the vagueness of Kirsty, a girl frequently in a World of her own.
I made it through to lunch and amazingly still had an appetite. Little did I realise that this would be the last food to pass my lips for several days. It was a strung out lunch, largely due to my deteriorating condition and from then on I went down hill rapidly. I staggered out of the restaurant and Jill went in search of a taxi. Nausea came on rapidly during the short journey back to the Hotel and I just about made it to the room before I was violently sick. After 15 minutes hovering over the toilet I collapsed onto the bed and fell into a deep sleep. It was but a short respite, however and the sickness soon returned. Jill mentioned that I was ideally placed right next door to the hospital and that if my plight continued I could always pop in for assistance. It was a suggestion made in jest but one that was to prove somewhat prophetic.
We both decided that rest would probably be the best cure. Jill had been due to return home the next day but in view of my plight I suggested that she might as well get the bus that night. In my state I was hardly the best company. No sooner had she gone, however, than I was again violently sick. A check of my blood sugar this time revealed that it had got dangerously low and I was faced with the stark fact that I could not even take a sip of water without retching. It was obvious that I would indeed have to turn to the Phuket International Hospital for relief from my plight. And so that’s what I did. I grabbed a few things together and carefully walked the short distance to the back entrance to the hospital, a path I had frequently trodden some 20 months before. I barely made it out of the lift before a team of several nurses and a porter with a wheelchair came to my assistance. Having taken my details and quickly found my records in their system, I was rushed straight through to the ER. A Doctor was soon on the scene and I was informed that I would have to be admitted. I barely made it to my room before I was again violently sick, this time almost continuously for best part of 15 minutes. I was helped into bed and placed on a saline drip and a strong course of antibiotics. Although the nausea continued through to the next day, I was not sick again and gradually my constitution was restored. When I had been burning up back at the hotel I had removed my head bandages. A nurse had helped me to put them back on but I’m afraid that I only kept them on a short while before once again discarding them. Under the circumstances, the constriction around my throat was just too much to bear. Freed of the uncomfortable bandages I was finally able to sleep properly for the first time since undergoing my major surgery on 19th December. Despite all my other discomforts, this was sheer bliss.
A Doctor came to see me the next morning and confirmed that I had indeed suffered a bout of serious food poisoning. I was kept in hospital for two nights, finally being released mid-morning on Monday 5th January, less than 24 hours before I was due to be readmitted for my labiaplasty. It had proved a costly exercise, the Hospital’s Bill amounting to £362. Due to the fact that I had been coming to Thailand for planned surgery, I had only been able to secure very limited travel insurance cover. Nonetheless, I was more than happy to pay. My diabetic condition makes me particularly vulnerable in such circumstances and the wonderful staff at the Phuket International Hospital had undoubtedly saved my life! Jill felt riddled with guilt that she had gone off and left me in such a state but I quickly reassured her that it had been the most sensible thing to do. Neither of us had appreciated just how bad my condition had been and once this was realised, going to Hospital had been by far the best option. And as I had dithered around the hotel room trying to decide what to take with me, it had been Jill’s words of encouragement on the phone that had galvanised me into action and had actually got me out the door and on my way. I was more than happy to take her advice again now as she suggested that I remove my bandages, pop down to see Fara, have my hair done and then have a nice relaxing foot massage. Fara made a good job of my hair and as I made my way along the sea front at Patong in order to enjoy some nice Western Fare in Molly Malone’s’ Irish Bar, I felt a million dollars.
So Tuesday dawned and at 0800 I headed back into Phuket International Hospital for my labiaplasty. After all that I had been through in recent weeks this at least did not seem too daunting. Surgery was scheduled for 1000 and I was soon relaxing in my room on a saline drip. Dr Sanguan popped into see me and had been most dismayed to hear of my food poisoning plight. At about 0930 the Porter came to take me up to the Operating Theatre. At one point along the way we met Dr Sanguan coming out of a room and to my surprise he took the trolley from the Porter and said I’ll push Kirsty through the next door. His presence always conveys a feeling of calming reassurance and it’s little actions like this that are so typical of this Great Man. He popped off to prepare leaving the Porter to again take over for the final few stages to Operating Theatre No.3, the room in which Kirsty had originally been created. This procedure was being carried out under epidural. I was given a local injection and then the anaesthetist endeavoured to insert the large needle into my spine. I have to say that this was really quite an unpleasant and painful experience and I take my hat off to our gender-born sisters who regularly go through this during childbirth. That said, having got through the amnesia, the whole procedure was really low key and before I knew it I was back in my room and feeling pretty good.
Dr. Sanguan came to see on the Wednesday morning and was able to report that the procedure had gone really well. I could expect the area to be swollen for about three weeks but would be able to restart dilation in about one week’s time. Whilst there he asked about my breasts and asked if I had been massaging them regularly as per his original instructions. He could tell by my slightly stuttering reply that I had perhaps not done this as often as I might. Still I stripped off and he undertook a careful examination and then asked if he might take some photographs for his records, as he doesn’t often have the opportunity to record Breast Augmentation at 20 months post-op. He was obviously well pleased and said to me that whatever I had been doing it was fine as I had perfect breasts. When later relating this story to Jill she counselled me not to get carried away as he probably says this to all his girls.
Jill came to see me again on Friday evening and we enjoyed a lovely meal at an Italian Restaurant in the nearby Central Festival Shopping Centre. The next day she took me to the Green Man English Pub near Chalong, a regular Sunday haunt of Jill’s during the time she lived in Patong. We got a taxi back to Central Festival and all too soon it was time to say a last goodbye to the girl that has become my dearest friend in the World. I shed more than a few tears that afternoon. Jill had been there for me every step of the way, always sending a text or making a phone call at just the right time. She had guided and counselled me and above all showed that she really cared, a true friend indeed.
Kirsty 4 weeks post-op (still a lot of swelling but starting to look human)
I flew out of Phuket at 1500 on Monday 12th January and for my last few days in Thailand once again took up residence at the Queen’s Garden Resort Hotel near the main Airport so enabling me to keep an eye on my beloved aircraft again. On Tuesday I visited Dr Chettawut for the last time in order to have all my final stitches removed. He carefully examined my face and declared himself to be extremely satisfied with the progress of my healing. He felt that I was about three weeks further on than he might have expected and felt that this was all the more remarkable considering my diabetic condition. I sincerely thanked him for the efforts that he had made on my behalf and declared myself extremely pleased with the outcome. He bade me a fond farewell and told me not to hesitate to contact him should I have any questions or problems.
I flew out of Bangkok in the early hours of Thursday 15th January and allowing for the 7-hour time change arrived back in Manchester at 1325 the same day.
It had been a gruelling five weeks but I had achieved all that I had set out to. I was confident that I now had the gentle feminine face that would enable me to merge seamlessly into society. And that’s all I wanted, to be an unremarkable woman going about her life. But of course we all know that girls like us are not unremarkable, we are really special.