Top Surgery Fund for Skylar
Organized by: Kate Skylar
I'M GETTING SURGERY!!!!!
I finally heard back from Dr. Sassani's office, and Jessica (his top surgery assistant) is fucking awesome. Literally, though. She's worked incredibly hard to work with my insurance, their office, and the hospital. The fees she expected I would be charged, are SIGNIFICANTLY lower. I'm getting most of this covered– which is a huge relief, because lodging and transportation does add up (especially for the 8 day stay that is required after this surgery). As I've also mentioned I might be forced to take as much as a month off work –– due to the physical nature of my job. You're supposed to wait 4 - 6 weeks before that kind of physical activity, which puts some stress on rent and bills. With that said, I am shutting down the donation piece of this website–– using my own savings for these costs!
My surgeon is Russell Sassani in FL. Not only are his results amazing, but he is a super cool person. During our phone consult I felt completely comfortable. Plus, check out his Facebook page (he actually cares a lot about the trans people he operates on!). See here: https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Russell-Sassani-1478860402430884/?fref=ts
I will be arriving in FL on July 19th, post op appointment is on the 20th, and surgery on the 21st . My surgical drains will removed on the 27th and then I'm leaving on a flight later that day. During my stay in FL, I will be at New Beginnings, a non-profit community driven home dedicated to offering affordable cost to trans people getting surgeries. This means I'll be staying with other folks who are getting the same procedure. From what I have read and seen, this is truly a one-of-a-kind place, that offers more support than I could get at home. (http://newbeginningstlc.org/)
As many of you know, this has been a really long process for me– yet not nearly as long as the years and years that so many trans people across this country wait for surgery, and are still waiting. When I last updated, I mentioned two other doctors–– Dr. Johnson, and Dr. Hazen. Although Dr. Johnson is closer, I wasn't a huge fan of her results. Also the complications of travel and lodging proved to be really difficult and costly. Under MA law phone consults are not allowed, which meant that just getting to a consult in Springfield would cost a few hundred dollars especially once factoring in taxis to and from. Then Dr. Hazen, the only surgeon in New York that accepted my insurance, informed me that she could not operate without me needing revisions 3 to 4 months later. Their office was also less than trans friendly. The front desk mistook me for a minor, despite having seen my ID, and I was given the pediatric intake forms. Alas, Dr. Sassani proved to be the best option. If all goes well, I won't need any revisions, and I'll be able to work with him and even choose the shape of my scars.
THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO HAS HELPED MAKE THIS POSSIBLE. I can't say it enough: THANK YOU! I have the most sincere love and appreciation for each one of you who donated, and lifted my spirits when it all seemed impossible.
So much has happened! Let my try to update you all, as best I can: I couldn't raise enough funds for my surgeon of choice, Daniel Medalie, for a number of factors. Travel, lodging, and his office's fees (1500 out of pocket) were too much to manage (let alone if I had any complications). Plus as of June, he is no longer accepting insurance. Finding another surgeon is unfortunately very time consuming. It has meant far more than researching different surgeon's results, but cross-checking with insurance to make sure they are in-network, and that the hospital or clinic they perform the surgery is also in-network. Once that is established, each surgeon has their own requirements. Although top surgery letters should be standard, I have experienced surgeons who want more details about my "diagnosis". Irrelevant questions like, who in my family is aware of my transition and are they supportive, have set me back weeks as it means I need to go back to my primary care doctor, and therapist, to re-write the letters, and re-submit them.
Other unexpected set backs include hidden costs. Numerous surgeons have accepted my insurance in full, only to tell me there is an additional cost. Dr. Russell Sassani, for example, charges patients a cosmetic fee that ranges between $2,000 - 5,000. What exactly does the cosmetic fee include? Lipo, and contoring of the chest. Since I verge on being underweight, I don't need the lipo, and have been waiting for weeks to hear back on an updated final cost. Needless to say...it doesn't look good. Nearly every surgeon has some variation of these additional costs. I'm not even sure if it's entirely legal for them to do this, especially since there is no option to opt out of the additional costs and get the standard procedure, according to insurance.
My most promising options are Alexes Hazen (NYC) and Melissa Johnson (MA). Alexes Hazen is the only surgeon who is in-network for my insurance in NY, and also has some of those hidden fees. She charges a couple hundred dollars for post and pre-op photos– and couldn't tell me why. Anyway, I have consults scheduled with them both in May. For Melissa Johnson, it means paying for transportation and a hotel– so I'll be using some of the funds I have raised here thus far. I will keep everyone updated as I know more... Thank you for caring & reading this everyone!
Friends, family, and strangers, every dollar you give helps to keep me going. Top surgery itself runs anywhere from 5k to 12k. Beyond hospital bills, travel expenses, hotels, and time off work must also be taken into account. Not being anywhere close to affording surgery has been the toughest part about all of this.
Asking for money is never something I wanted to do. At the same time, it gets to a point where you cannot keep going anymore. I identify as genderqueer, or non-binary– something I came to terms with after years of struggling to describe how I felt. When gender is seen as either male or female, what happens to the rest of us? When trans is seen as existing within an MTF or FTM binary, what happens to the rest of us? Despite having a much more “progressive” health insurance than many others out there, my top surgery will not be covered. My insurance policy dictates requirements for coverage, including: documentation of "twelve consecutive months of cross-sex hormone therapy". While hormones are an important part of many people’s transition, it is not something I want. The idea that transness is a one-size-fits-all, harms everyone who does not adhere to the traditional trans narrative.
Emotionally and physically, I have reached a limit– the point where fighting the system has become a losing battle, taking everything out of me along the way. When I read this statistic, I realized just how many of us across the trans spectrum cannot get the care we need:
"19% of trans people have been refused healthcare because of their gender identity. 50% of trans people have had to teach their doctors about trans-related medical care. 28% of trans people have been harassed in medical settings.”
Finding doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists even somewhat educated of trans – let alone genderqueer–issues borders on impossible. They simply are not accessible. Going to appointments called by the wrong name and pronouns, never asked my name or pronouns, or having to teach my doctor which terms are offensive, has been my breaking point.
A month ago I injured my ribs from binding, and went to my general care doctor for help. She examined me and saw that my ribs had shifted, jutting sharply outward. I explained to her what a binder was. Then I asked her what I should do, and she couldn’t tell me. My best bet, was to go somewhere that specialized in trans needs, she confessed. Unfortunately those places are overbooked and hard to get into. I still haven’t had my ribs looked at.
I’m asking for a dollar, or whatever you can give. This will help me get closer to being in a body I’ll be comfortable in and more than that– to get back to doing what I love. My genetics have unfortunately given me a large chest, meaning that even on just the physical level, I am prevented from doing what I love. I used to run, cycle, hike, and swim. All of these activities, which used to help with depression and anxiety, are no longer helpful when you throw dysphoria into the mix.
Thanks for reading all of this– and even if you can't give, hopefully you can be an advocate for universal healthcare beyond exclusionary policies to a system that actually cares about us, and meets our needs.
All my best,