I had both a Colo-Vaginoplasty (GCS/SRS) and Facial Feminisation Surgery (FFS) at IM Clinic in Barcelona. Both procedures were performed on the same day, it is a lot of work for one session.
I was 49 at the time of the surgeries. I live in Taiwan and flew to Barcelona specifically to access the services of Dr. Manero and his team. I have had minimal access to medical services during my transition. I work internationally, government waiting lists are a joke almost everywhere in the world and I am not in one country long enough to even begin the process. As such, I was nervous about this final step, about accessing it, where to go and who to trust.
In Spain, you do not need letters from psychiatrists to prove you are not insane for being transgender. You need to establish that you have been on HRT for at least a year and for the surgical team to have confidence in you.
Dr. Manero has performed around 2,500 vaginoplasty procedures. He also has a reputation for rebuilding poor quality work by other clinics around the world.
The combination of the low barriers of entry and this exceptional reputation gave me confidence for probably the most important investment in my life.
I was allocated a case manager who arranged all details to ensure a seamless experience. She initially arranged a video consultation while I was still in Taiwan with Dr. Manero. He addressed all questions kindly and authoritatively. I felt he was a kind and highly motivated professional that put patients first.
I was admitted to the clinic the day before the procedure. You are given strict guidelines on a "low residue" diet for a week before the procedure, not fun, and then this fleet enema process, which cleans you out. I did this sat on the floor under the shower over a few hours. It made it just about manageable, it was probably the worst part of the whole thing. Be warned.
The morning of the procedure you are prepared and then taken to the operating theatre. My next memory is of waking up about 12 hours later in some pain, not out of control, but significant. This was swiftly brought under control. There is then 3 days of forced bedrest.
Believe me, during this period you don't even want to move. You hover between a little pain, discomfort, tiredness, generally just trying to keep relaxed and wait it out. Nurses regularly come to check and you are provided with a wrist watch buzzer that can summon assistance at a moment's notice.
So, yes, it is serious. The whole thing is serious, but the clinic manages you through the process well.
The outcome of both my FFS and vaginoplasty are beyond my wildest dreams. The skill, genius and proficiency of the entire team is beyond description. My FFS has already almost completely healed at a visible level. It will continue for months, but imperceptibly.
Unfortunately, with the vaginoplasty I did have some sutures split on the outside, this happened about 10 days after the procedure. It is a standard complication, it doesn't happen a lot, but it can happen. Either way, this was picked up in my final check up and I was scheduled for an emergency repair a few days later.
In general though, healing has been good and at no time has pain been beyond something I could handle.
With the FFS, for the first time in my life I no longer see the ghost of a man staring back at me. I still look like me, but I look like me as a woman. It is uncanny. I have had so many compliments already. That alone was worth everything.
As for the vaginoplasty, it is a slow healing process, but now I am starting to explore and it looks and feels exactly as I would have hoped. I am getting clear indications of sensitivity in the right places. The shape, the structures, the components, all of it, to me, it is beautiful. I am impatient to heal enough to really enjoy living as myself for the first time.
So, the surgical team, miracle workers. Genuinely. For me, it feels like they performed two miracles on me. The discomfort passed quickly enough and the healing continues, but the results are legendary. THANK YOU!
For the first several days you are completely immobile. You are 100% dependent on the nurses. They kept me clean, they kept my pain well under control. They were kind, gentle, affectionate, professional and at no time did I feel neglected.
I felt they genuinely cared and there was good continuity between shift changes. The nursing definitely reflected the quality of the surgery.
The environment is clean, modern, but warm and inviting. Each patient has a private room. Mine had a panoramic view over the gardens and was a beautiful sight to wake up to each day.
Okay, there are a few things to be careful about. The clinic is very busy, while I was in recovery it did not feel busy or rushed, but as you recover there is definitely pressure on resources. And the recovery cycle feels steep and challenging, so when it comes to being discharged you may not feel ready. Believe me, they know when you are ready, and they know if you are not. So, discharge did come as a bit of a shock. However, within a few days of being out and in a privately rented apartment and starting to eat normally again, my recovery process gathered momentum.
Stay in a good hotel for a few weeks, stay somewhere clean with good washroom and shower facilities, ensure you have easy access to a pharmacy, food and have people around you if at all possible, who will care for you a little. This makes a massive difference.
Dr Manero and his team are the gold standard. There is a premium to pay, but from my experience, it is worth every cent, worth saving up for, worth investing in. Even if it means you have to wait another year or two until you can afford it, I would rather put myself in their hands than anyone else's. Love the doctors and nurses there. I felt completely in safe hands, I feel like a newly born woman, better than I ever dared hope for.