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What to Pack for Your FTM Surgery Recovery

Posted by Dr. Hugh McLean on 23 July 2020
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Finally deciding to go through a female to male or FTM top surgery is a bold and brave step towards the right direction. There may be a lot of struggles in the beginning, but it’s definitely worth taking. Behind every successful gender-affirming procedure is the careful pre-surgery preparation. It gives you the confidence and the sense of control as you take on such a personal journey. 

Opened suitcase

In this article, we an FTM top surgery recovery packing list to give you an idea of the things you need to speed up your body’s healing process while making the entire recovery phase comfortable. Whether you are flying to, say, get your top surgery in Canada, or will have your operation close to home, our list is filled with practical items essential to your quick recovery. 

Let’s dig right in!

Holding a red button-down shirt

FTM Surgery Recovery Packing List

Clothing Items

Comfort is key. Keep this in mind when thinking about dressing up from head to toe and which pieces to take with you. 

  • Short sleeves or long sleeves button-up shirts
    Your movement will be limited while you are recuperating from the surgery. Hence, it will be difficult and painful to lift your hands to get a T-shirt over your head. You will be living in the comfort of button-up shirts during this period, especially in the early weeks post-surgery. Make sure to get pieces that are a size bigger than what you usually wear. The looser, the better. They should be easy to put on and are roomy enough to accommodate your post-op bandages and post-surgical drains.
  • Zip-up Hooded Sweaters
    Pack a couple of hoodies with zipper closures to keep you warm if it gets cold or to help you feel snug and comfortable in your air-conditioned room, where you’ll be spending most of your time. Patients who have undergone operations are more prone to chilling, so it’s good to be prepared. 
  • Compression Binder  Bring a compression binder vest. Your FTM top surgeon will provide you with one after the surgery, but it’s highly recommended to have a second one to spare in case of bleeding or if you feel like throwing it in the laundry because the smell has started to gross you out. 
  • Athletic Pants with Elastic Waistbands Don’t forget to bring bottoms that are comfortable, too, such as loose jogging pants or sweatpants with an elastic waist to prevent you from bending over or strain just to put on.
  • Compression Socks
    Wearing compression socks or stockings after going through a surgical procedure is known to lower the risks of blood clots from forming. Have a pair in handy, especially if you are travelling to and from the FTM top surgery private clinic or hospital. If you need to get on a flight to get back home, book it weeks after your surgery to avoid bleeding and complications due to the sudden changes in air pressure. Wearing compression socks will also help during this situation.
  • Slip-on Shoes or Slippers
    In your FTM top surgery packing list, include a pair of boat shoes, slippers, or any footwear that will not require you to bend down to tie your shoelaces.

Toiletries

Toiletry kit and suitcase

No matter how challenging, stay on top of your personal hygiene after your gender-confirmation surgery to mitigate potential risks of infection from dirt and bacteria buildup. For toiletries, your top surgery packing list should include the following:

  • Wet Wipes or No-Rinse Bathing Wipes
    The first 24 to 48 hours after surgery, you won’t be able to move much and showering or walking to the bathroom to wash your face is probably the last thing on your mind. Having a stash of wet wipes on your bedside table is convenient to clean up without having to stand up or rinse. It’s a surefire way to freshen up in less than five minutes.
  • Antibacterial Soap and Body Wash
    After several days or up to a week, your plastic surgeon will give you the green light to shower. It is best to take with you gentle antibacterial soap for washing. 
  • Bath Sponge with a Stick
    This allows you to reach and wash the bottom half of your body without having to bend.
  • Dry Shampoo and Conditioner
    If you do not have a travel companion, a housemate (if you’re healing at home), or a caregiver to shampoo and wash your hair for you, it would be impossible to do it yourself for the first couple of weeks. You won’t be able to lift your hands up yet at this point. Spritzing dry shampoo would help you maintain your hair care routine, especially if you’re used to washing it frequently. 
  • Moisturizer, Lotion, and Lip Balm
    Post-surgery patients are prone to dehydration and, therefore, experience dryness everywhere. Make sure you have facial moisturizer, lotion, and lip balm within your reach.

For the first week after your FTM top surgery, you will be advised to refrain from getting your bandages and drains wet. Hence, the no showering rule until you’ve returned to your surgeon for a follow-up appointment where they will also likely remove the post-surgical drains and change the dressing for your wounds. 

However, some top surgery patients share that they couldn’t stand the stench and how gross they were feeling days after the procedure. They further reveal creating a DIY plastic poncho secured with clothespins to clean up some parts of their body while protecting their bandage. If you are curious or interested in trying this yourself, make sure you ask your plastic surgeon’s approval to err on the side of caution. 

Medications

 Pills and thermometers

This part of your top surgery packing list should be cross-checked with your attending surgeon first to ensure that it’s not going to cause contraindications or complications. Ask your doctor’s recommendations for a painkiller, antibiotics, allergy medications, and stool softeners. Some non-binary people online share that they felt itchy and had lots of discomfort with constipation while recovering from FTM top surgery. 

This is how your medicine surgery packing list should look like:

  • Painkillers, antibiotics, allergy meds (as advised by your surgeon)
  • Vitamin C, arnica, and multivitamins to strengthen your immune system 
  • Lozenges, cough drops, or ginger tea to soothe throat dryness and irritation due to intubation
  • Gauze rolls, gauze pads (non-stick), medical/Surgical tape, paper tape, cloth tape, or hypoallergenic tape, if you need to change or tend to your dressings.
  • Neosporin First Aid Antibiotic Ointment
  • Cold and hot reusable compress
  • Thermometer to check if you have a fever, which is an indication of infection

Pillows

Bring a neck pillow and a second pillow for the car ride going home or to the hotel. Propping your neck with a travel pillow and hugging another is an excellent strategy to keep you cozy and to cushion yourself for the seatbelt. The neck pillow will also be useful in propping yourself up during your weeks of recovery. 

Reusable Bendable Straw

A reusable bendy straw is convenient for sipping on water to hydrate or when taking your prescription antibiotics or painkillers. It will be uncomfortable and unsafe to move your arms to lift glasses every now and then to drink, so a bendy straw is definitely a staple in your FTM top surgery packing list. 

Luggage Options

Brown carry on luggage

No matter what happens, pack light, particularly if you will travel alone to a different country to get your FTM top surgery. Your surgeon will recommend that you limit the weight of your carry-on bag at 5lbs max. There may still be swelling and pain three weeks after surgery, which means you shouldn’t be putting unnecessary pressure and strain on your shoulders or chest just yet. 

Source of Entertainment

On the first two to three weeks post-op, you will be advised to take it slow and refrain from doing any strenuous physical activity. You will be spending a lot of time in your room resting and recuperating. Save yourself from getting bored to death by:

  • Stockpile on books or magazines to read. 
  • Bring handheld gaming devices. 
  • Take your laptop with you to binge-watch movies or series or get in touch with your family and friends using Skype, Zoom, or other video conferencing platforms. 
  • Get a portable laptop bed table, which can also be used to put food on top when you feel sluggish to walk all the way to the dining table for a proper meal. 
Flatlay of book, laptop, and other miscellaneous items

Food and Snacks

If you live alone or plan on staying in a hotel, do your at least two to three weeks’ worth of grocery shopping days before your scheduled operation date. Again, you would be unable to physically go out of the house to do this without risking bruising or bleeding because it’s too taxing. Stock your pantry and refrigerator with nutritious meals and snacks as much as possible to support your body’s natural healing. Get weeks worth of freeze-dried meals. Do meal prep dishes that you can store in the freezer, so you don’t have to cook and wash the dishes. If you are staying in a hotel, check the available food delivery services around the area. 

The tips are applicable also regardless if you’re having a keyhole top surgery or a double-incision mastectomy. Feel free to personalize our FTM surgery recovery packing list as you see fit, and don’t forget to consult your plastic surgeon for approval. 

If you are getting your procedure done by Dr. Hugh McLean and have any questions or concerns about this topic, please do not hesitate to reach out to our clinic immediately. Contact us now!

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