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Why Americans Are Coming to Canada for Their FTM Top Surgeries

Posted by Dr. Hugh McLean on 7 May 2020
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There’s a burgeoning trend showing many Americans crossing the border to get their top surgery procedure done in Canada. The truth is that this isn’t surprising news anymore. Year after year, the U.S. government reveals that an increasing number of citizens travel out of the country to seek medical treatment, including gender-reassignment procedures.

Canadian flag amidst a beautiful landscape

 
In 2015, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) reported that there are 150,000 to 320,000 (or up to 1.4 million as far as other estimates are concerned) of Americans who go abroad to get treatment every year. Is there any sound explanation for this behaviour?

In this article, we’ll break down the many plausible reasons as to why the Great White North seems to be an appealing location for specialized medical treatments, such as FTM top surgery.

Let’s delve right in!

Gay couple

Healthcare in Canada Versus the United States

First of all, we must tackle the healthcare system in both countries.

Canada boasts a universal healthcare system that is publicly funded to provide access to medically necessary health care services for all of its registered residents based on need rather than the ability to pay. In some provinces, Canadians can apply for funding for gender-confirming surgeries. Ontario, for instance, accepts coverage for sex-reassignment operations in the chest and genitals.

On the contrary, federally funded health plans in the U.S., Medicare and Medicaid, are exclusive primarily for indigent families and elderly citizens. Some are fortunate enough to be provided with private health insurance by their employers as part of their employment contract. Sadly, the same cannot be said for up to 46 million Americans without health insurance.

Now that you have a clearer perspective of the two healthcare systems let’s move forward to the causes that are ultimately leading Americans to get their top surgery in Canada.

Affordability

Cost savings undoubtedly tops the list of potential reasons why people are choosing to have their top surgery procedure completed in Canada rather than in the United States.

Technically, they wouldn’t be privy to the country’s lauded universal healthcare system and would be paying out of pocket for the whole treatment procedure. However, estimates suggest that the total cost of going to Ontario for FTM top surgery, including the travel fee and a month-long stay in a hotel, is still dramatically cheaper than having it done in the U.S. without health insurance.

Accessibility

In some cases, Canadian private clinics and hospitals are relatively nearer and more accessible for Americans who reside near the borders. U.S. politician Sarah Palin, who was the former governor of Alaska, admitted that when she was a child, her family used to drive to Canada from her hometown Skagway whenever anyone needed medical treatment.

Furthermore, there is also no language barrier. It’s why even if gender-affirming surgeries could be ten times cheaper in Thailand or other countries in the world, Americans still feel most comfortable having their top surgery done in Canada.

Non-binary person holding the Gay Pride flag

Availability and Quality of Care

According to sources, Canada achieved a higher score than the U.S. on two common health outcome measures — infant mortality and life expectancy — even if it devoted only 10 percent of its GDP versus the latter’s 16 percent in 2017. It’s a testament to the stellar quality of Canadian medical treatment they can expect: specialized treatment at more affordable rates.

In 2019, Sen. Paul Rand—who infamously compared the right to healthcare to slavery—was slammed for undergoing a hernia repair surgery in Canada. Based on Healthline, Rand went to Shouldice Hernia Hospital in Thornhill, Ontario, where he got an exceptional level of care at a lower fee. The institution is known for specializing in hernia repair using natural tissue rather than artificial mesh.

When it comes to FTM top surgery in Canada, the number of qualified specialists are continuing to multiply, and sex reassignment procedures are now fast becoming a staple in most plastic surgery practices and public hospitals.

Respectful of Non-Binary Patients

Finding the right surgeon for a gender-affirming procedure is a serious endeavour. Professional credentials and technical expertise aside, your surgeon should have the willingness and capacity to guide you in this emotionally challenging journey. Emerencz Merkle specifically chose McLean Clinic because it has an untarnished reputation for being respectful of non-binary patients seeking to get their top surgery in Canada.

It’s also worth noting that a growing number of doctors now recognize top surgery as an essential medical treatment. Non-binary individuals resort to binding for hours on end every day, which is proven to be unhealthy and structurally damaging for their bodies.

“I don’t see it as a cosmetic operation, I see it as a reconstructive operation,” Dr. Hugh McLean said in an interview. “It’s one of the most gratifying surgeries.”

Dr. McLean believes that everyone should have access to a qualified plastic surgeon who can perform their FTM top surgery safely and effectively. “I don’t think that people should be required to travel distances to have what they need. And this is truly a need,” he continued.

Preparing for FTM Top Surgery in Canada

Have you made up your mind to get your top surgery in Canada? Before packing your bags and booking your flight, here are some practical steps that can help prepare you for the biggest trip of your life.

Research

Don’t go to Canada on a whim. We recommend that you do your due diligence by researching for FTM top surgery clinics and plastic surgeons with excellent reviews from previous patients. The non-binary community shares a lot of informative resources online, from chest masculinization surgery options, operation expenses, to the typical recovery experience.

Select Your Surgeon

A number of FTM top surgery websites have compiled a list of qualified cosmetic surgeons and private clinics available across the country. Our very own Dr. Hugh McLean is a highly recommended expert for FTM top surgery in Ontario. Instead of flying in immediately for a consultation, we recommend connecting first via email or other online platforms.

Prepare a referral letter from your psychiatrist for your surgeon’s review. If you do not have one, inquire if you can work with a model of informed consent. Your plastic surgeon will play a pivotal role in your transition and transformation. It’s essential that you feel confident and comfortable with him. When in doubt, stop and consider your other options.

Plan Ahead

Typical recovery from an FTM top surgery is different from one person to another. It usually takes anywhere from two to three weeks for the swelling to subside. During this period, you are to focus on getting sufficient rest and nutrition to speed up your body’s natural healing process. You are not allowed to do serious physical activities to avoid bleeding and complications.

Before your scheduled date of surgery, you should clear your social calendar and file your leave requests at work in advance.

Travel Arrangements

  • Make sure you have all the essential travel documents prepared, such as your passport and visa. Double-check that nothing will expire on your travel dates.
  • Arrive at least a day before your scheduled operation. It’s going to give you enough time to settle down, take a breather, or iron out some kinks if necessary. It will also allow you to have enough sleep, which you will need the next day.
  • You cannot take a plane back immediately after your top surgery because of the pressure on the incisions. If you are flying to Canada, book your return ticket and hotel accommodations for two weeks post-operation.
  • If you are crossing the border, you won’t be able to drive yourself home, and the shaking inside the vehicle will cause you significant discomfort. We suggest staying for seven days, which is enough time if you had nipple graftings for your dressing to be removed.
  • Search for hotels and other accommodation options within proximity to the clinic where you had your FTM top surgery. It will be to be easier for you to navigate your way to and from your hotel after the operation, during follow-up check-ups, or in case of emergency.
  • Book a hotel with a calm and serene atmosphere that is ideal for your rest and recovery. Extra points if they offer room service or are near food delivery services. Check this article for foods to eat after top surgery.
  • Ask your partner, close friend, or relative to accompany you. Besides having someone, you can trust to look after you while you are recuperating, the emotional support they can give you will be valuable to your speedy recovery.
  • If no one is available to come with you on your trip, there are now caregivers that you can book in advance for at least 24 hours. Ask your top surgery clinic in Canada for assistance on this matter.
  • If you are travelling alone, stock up on food and other essential items that you might need while you are on the mend in your hotel room. Do this on the day you arrive before your surgery.

Packing Pointers

  • Pack light. If you are travelling on your own, you won’t be able to move your shoulders to lift or carry comfortably. Remember, swelling and pain may still be present up to three weeks post-operation.
  • Bring a binder compression vest. Your surgeon will provide you with one after the surgery, but it’s recommended to have a second one to spare in case of bleeding.
  • Bring a lot of button-down shirts, which will come in handy as it will be uncomfortable to lift your arms.

For more information on getting your FTM top surgery in Canada, reach out to McLean Clinic today. A member of our team will be more than happy to assist you.

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