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HomeHealthCorewell Health's 300th transgender top surgery | Corewell Health

Corewell Health’s 300th transgender top surgery | Corewell Health

Tam Alexander sat in the doctor’s office thinking intently about how her life will change once the procedure is complete.

“I’ve wanted to do this for as long as I can remember,” they said, after receiving top gender-affirming surgery a week earlier.

Alexander’s pronouns are they, as they are non-binary and do not identify as either male or female.

Alexander was undergoing post-surgical follow-up with Amie Hop, MD, at Corewell Health’s Spectrum Health Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Clinic.

Dr. Hop, who prides herself on providing a safe and affirming space for everyone who sets foot in her clinic, has helped hundreds of people with similar procedures. Alexander marked his 300th milestone as a top surgery patient.

Top surgery is a procedure that removes breast tissue and reshapes the chest to create a more masculine appearance.

A great change

“When I was very young, I was attracted to both boys and girls,” Alexander explained. “I liked pretty boys and boyish girls. “Back then I didn’t know there were words for these feelings.”

Alexander struggles with gender dysphoria.

In Alexander’s case, much of this was because he was not comfortable with the gender assigned at birth.

Alexander finds peace through these challenges by spending time with his emotional support animals.

“I help take care of the feral cats in our area. I have even taken some to the vet to get them fixed, checked,” they said.

But that day, Alejandro was the one being treated.

“Today I also start doing exercises for my chest, shoulders and arms,” they said. “And I’ve been filling out my drainage log so you can see how it’s going.”

Alexander said his entire family has been accepting throughout the process, but some still have some questions.

“I didn’t want to be either a man or a woman,” they explained. “I didn’t want to be either…or androgynous.”

They said they are not taking testosterone and had a hysterectomy a few years ago.

Your dream come true

Dr. Hop walked into the room and a big smile appeared on Alexander’s face.

“Are the reinforcements removed today?” Alexander said. “I have been feeling this crunching and itching. It almost feels like everything is back online.”

Dr. Hop said the pathology was back to normal and everything seemed fine, but the drain was still coming out.

“I was always trying to hide my breasts,” Alexander said. “When I was a girl I was made fun of for not wearing a bra and already in high school I knew that… I didn’t want to be a woman. But I was still attracted to men and women.”

They said that labels are too complicated and that they no longer wanted to be defined by them.

“It’s just me,” they said.

This is the second time the bandages have been removed, as Dr. Hop helped place a double bandage to wrap the chest tightly.

Alexander’s breasts were 52DD and weighed between 3 and 9 pounds each before surgery.

“I was carrying the equivalent of two five-pound bags of sugar on my chest,” Alexander said. “This feels great,” they said, pointing to his chest.

“The arms and belly come later. As soon as I can I will be working on them,” they said.

“We can try it without a portfolio if you want,” said Kimberly TexleyQuigg, WHNP, certified nurse practitioner in obstetrics and gynecology. “Maybe just an Ace wrapper or something similar.”

He explained to Alexander the possibility of phantom pains.

“It may feel like a small electric shock,” he said.

He explained that next they will prepare a bandage over the nipples, which must be removed in a week.

“Breathe deeply,” he said as he removed the drains and gauze to reveal Alexander’s new chest.

“I’ve been trying to get this surgery for years,” they said. “I finally got here and the process was smooth and without discrimination. “I even thought about not having nipples, but I decided I liked it that way.”

They slowly stood up and looked at his chest for the first time.

“My God,” they said. “It’s so amazing.”

They stood sideways and looked at their profile in the mirror.

“I have always carried my chest up,” they said. “Oh my God, this is great,” they said, turning back and forth in front of the mirror.

team effort

Ediana Hoxhallari, MD, resident physician at Corewell Health, assisted in the surgery with Dr. Hop and visited the new Alexander.

“How does your back feel, my friend?” she said. “I bet it’s a lot better with a lot less on your chest.”

Dr. Hoxhallari performed the procedure on one side and Dr. Hop on the other.

“I’ve been doing these surgeries for three years,” he said. “I hope to perform more major surgeries in my future career. I’ve done six so far.”

Recovery is different for each patient, but Alexander appears to be doing well according to the medical team.

“The nipples take a few weeks to set,” Dr. Hoxhallari explained. “Eventually they will scab over, fall off, and heal naturally.”

He explained that the procedure makes the areola and nipple smaller to look more like a male nipple.

Dr. Hoxhallari said the mental health benefits of this procedure are game-changing.

“There are so many things that trans and non-binary people have to go through that many of us will never know,” she said. “If there is something that can make them feel better or more comfortable with who they are… we want to do it. “This is as necessary as any other medical procedure we would do for any other condition.”

“Once again…this is incredible,” Alexander said as they put the shirt back on without ties or wrapping.

“Thank you for being on this journey with me,” they said. “Will always remember you.”

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