Friday, September 14, 2012

A Look Inside The Operating Room

The below is an article by Karen Lovett that was printed in the Nashua Telegraph on March 30, 2008 along with the "Surgery Completes The Transformation"article. I never posted it here because I didn't have an electronic copy and hence it's only been read by those that had print copies or before it was removed from the Telegraph website a few years back.

The three main articles that dealt with me have been reposted on the Telegraph website, with the Corey Perrine photos, as with the release of the GLAD publication, the Telegraph has decided to do a follow up article on my past four and a half years.

A look inside the operating room


There is a particular rhythm to this place. It starts with the dance of preparation, as scrubbed nurses circle around, grabbing bottles and boxes and scissors of steel.

Later, there is the whirring of surgical tools. The steady beep of the heart monitor. The smooth jazz songs, crooned in French and English, escaping a speaker high up on the wall.

This is operating room No. 1 at the Centre Metropolitain de Chirurgie Plastique, a small hospital just outside Montreal. But at the same time, with some imagination, it may also be someplace else.

To Dr. Pierre Brassard, a plastic surgeon, what happens here is not all science.

To him, surgery is also an art form.

“It’s all in the design,” he said. “It’s all in the subtleties.”

Brassard performs many kinds of plastic surgery, but this idea of art shows itself especially in sexual reassignment surgery, during which the patient’s biological genitals are reconstructed to those of the opposite sex.

Though there is a widely accepted method for performing male-to-female surgery, some of the techniques are nuanced, Brassard said - the design of the incisions, for example.

The work starts with fluid strokes to clean the operation area and ends with the glides of final stitching.

Brassard’s movements throughout are smooth, calculated.

It’s no wonder, though, because in each of the last 12 years, he has performed more than 100 such surgeries - both for males changing to females and vice versa. Brassard estimates he has done 1,300 sexual reassignments in all.
Even so, he said, it isn’t a simple procedure.

“The surgery is very difficult technically,” Brassard said while performing the operation on Cynthia Tebbetts, of Goffstown, in January.

There is a long list of potential complications, including infection or contamination if, during a critical phase, the doctor makes a wrong move.

If he isn’t working in exactly the right area, Brassard said, “Your patient is in trouble.”
After Tebbetts’ three-hour procedure, however, Brassard said he was “very satisfied” with the result, adding that the surgery “went over very smooth. Easy. No problems at all.”

Brassard said he took interest in transgender people “by accident.” He remembers first seeing one as a patient on a television program and being intrigued. “When I was young, I learned to be open-minded,” he said. “Growing up, I was confronted with nature’s variety.”

He later studied medicine at Laval University and eventually decided he wanted to be a surgeon. He liked using his hands. Liked the human anatomy, and “being able to influence health.”

Brassard did a fellowship in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and his residency in the same focus at the University of Montreal.

When Brassard started practicing in Quebec City, he took care of some transgender patients.

“I realized they needed surgery - good surgery,” he said.

Brassard eventually met Dr. Yvon Menard, who specialized for many years in sexual reassignment surgeries. Brassard joined Menard at the Centre Metropolitain de Chirurgie Plastique, and has been there more than a decade.

Surgeries in the hospital have increased by 100 percent during the last five years, according to the hospital’s Web site, with patients coming from America, Asia and Europe.

In recent years, Brassard purchased the building next door to the hospital,
renovating it into a rest home for patients. It was important to him that they be close by and receive immediate nursing care if needed.

That’s part of what sets the center apart, Brassard said. In other places, patients stay in hotels during the time around surgery and don’t have access to on-the-spot help.
Brassard said he has occasionally run into former patients at conferences, which is when the best part of his job can reveal itself.

To him, that is “seeing a happy patient and hearing them say, when I ask them, ‘Do you like the result?’ They say, ‘Oh yes!’

“Then, it’s mission accomplished.”

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