I’ve written a few bits and pieces here and there about surgery. There is LOTS of information out there for trans people to read up on. Websites and forums such as those on Susans Place and TG forums are invaluable. If you are a partner, or family member, it is somewhat different though because although you are not actually going through with the surgery physically, you are going through it mentally and emotionally.
I’ve met a lot of people who have had various surgeries from different places and in different countries all over the world. Everyone goes about their surgery differently. Some people are super independent and don’t take a support person with them (i.e. you) and others really need that reassurance.
I’ve seen and heard some touching stories. Like the father who said he would never support his daughter’s transition then drove 1000miles overnight to be with her the day of her SRS surgery. Or the FFS surgery and subsequent clothes shopping that helped to bring together a worried mother and new adult (newly divorced!) daughter. I’ve also heard some unhappy stories like the parents who’ve said you can live with us, but you are on your own and we won’t help with the practicalities and after care of surgery, not even picking you up at the airport.
Here are some of my tips for coping with surgery and travel.
1. Make sure you budget and have enough funds! This includes having an extra $100 or $200 on hand for an unexpected cab/ taxi ride or missed items. Don’t scrimp if you can help it. That being said, most facilities treat their patients and guests with very good care. They will offer pick up and drop off too and from the airport, to and from the hospital and other little things like this.
2. Pack stuff for you to do. I know it sounds obvious but take books, music, walking shoes, your computer, anything, even some gym clothes with you as most hotels have a gym to use. I took my guitar with me so I would never be bored. Even if you are staying together during post-op care she may just sleep. A lot.
3. Understand that the hospital and recovery centres have their own rules and visiting hours. They can be a little bit flexible sometimes but you won’t necessarily be able to be with your partner 24/7. This can feel mean and you can feel unwelcome, but don’t take it personally. For example at the Chonburi hospital visiting hours can be quite flexible but at Montreal it is very strict. Be prepared to pop out for food and other items that she might want.
4. I failed at this one first time round but try to be prepared for your emotions and have someone to talk to who isn’t dealing directly with the situation. Your partner is doing something scary and doesn’t need your “OMG look at your face/ boobs” moments.
5. Learn about the after care routines your partner needs to do. If she is expecting help, know the routines inside out. Learn about possible complications, signs of infection (sometimes it can just be a bad smell and there is no usual sign like heat and redness) and have an understanding of her limitations.
6. Be aware that although the surgeon generally won’t approach every patient in a “cookie cutter” way and will tailor match breasts to body size, lip size etc the surgeon will approach every patient in the same manner. The surgeon has learned a particular technique and will only vary the details to match the body. The surgeon will not change the technique to suit your expectations. You and your partner can talk all you want about the finer details but the surgeon can only do what they can do. Also don’t let the surgeon railroad your partner into work she doesn’t want done.
7. International travel can be tricky. Request a wheelchair service with the airline. It will save time and help deal with luggage issues as staff will be on hand to help.
8. I hope this is at least a little bit helpful!