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Edmonton hospital provides essential service for transgender patients

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Friday is Transgender Day of Visibility and an Edmonton woman is sharing her story about what post-operative care in Alberta looks like. Vanessa Percheson says the Lois Hole Hospital for Women in Edmonton is filling a major gap for many people in the province. Morgan Black has more – Mar 31, 2022

An Edmonton hospital is helping to fill a gap in care for many transgender people in Alberta.

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women provides space for people who are planning to undergo, or have undergone, gender-affirming surgery like vaginoplasty.

Patients are sent by Alberta Health Services to a specialized clinic in Montreal for surgery. After the operation, they stay for post-operation care for a period of time before coming home.

Vanessa Percheson, a trans woman, flew to Montreal in early February for a vaginoplasty. She said she was surprised by how much healing her body still had to do in the days after surgery.

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“It was not knowing what to expect, not knowing the type of pain [I would] be in, not understanding the complexity of my surgery,” she explained.
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Percheson said her time at the Lois Hole Hospital provided a space for check-ups and reassurance.

“It definitely helped my mental health. It helped me feel okay, it helped me understand these new genitals that I have,” she said. “Not only are you getting gynecology care, but you’re getting a sense of peace.”

Since 2018, patients have been served as part of urogynecological services inside the Royal Alexandra Hospital. In total, more than 250 trans men and women from across northern Alberta have utilized its services.

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Dr. Cathy Flood works at the urology clinic in that hospital and treated Percheson after her surgery.

“We recognized over the last few decades that people were coming back from Montreal after bottom surgery and didn’t have anywhere to go,” Flood said. “Most surgeons, like myself, we see our patients post-operatively. But these patients didn’t have anywhere to go if they had a surgical complication.”

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Flood said the space creates a unique environment for men and women to prepare for or recover from a life-changing surgery.

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“You can imagine [the difficulty of] going through the most major surgery of your life in a place where you don’t know anyone,” Flood said.

Flood said she would love to see an Alberta-based surgery for patients be developed.

“It’s a very hidden thing, transgender care. Our dream is it becomes a regular thing that patients can get the care they need locally,” she said. “We are mentoring and fostering the growth of doctors to get the training and get the surgery set up.”

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