The planning that goes into having Phalloplasty surgery is not to be underestimated! I consider myself to be a fairly organized person and a master list maker, but I still found it mentally taxing to organize all the details of getting to Portland (Oregon) and spending my initial recovery there. There are Phalloplasty supplies lists available online, but because my surgery was being staged and I was coming from out-of-country, I found that these lists were only helpful up to a point. I also had to juggle multiple shopping lists: supplies I needed to buy before departure, supplies I needed to buy during my pre-op days in Portland (due to not being able to acquire certain items in Canada, too expensive in Canada, or not wanting the extra weight in my checked baggage), supplies I would need after my hospital stay, and supplies I would need after getting back home (where I have very limited access to most of the things I would need.)
In the end, I traveled with a case of supplies that weighed 57 lbs. I re-purposed a large guitar pedalboard case for the job. Because I was also traveling with an electric guitar, I looked like I should have been pulling into the Moda Center for soundcheck, not OHSU for surgery! At my pre-op appointment, I was told that I couldn’t bring valuables to the hospital, aside from my phone. Incredulously, I said that I was here from another country by myself and would be bringing EVERYTHING with me to the hospital. I had to go to the nurses station on the plastic surgery floor to request special allowance for this. Not surprisingly, I got some curious looks when I arrived at OHSU Admitting on the morning of surgery, lugging my heavy gear and not looking like someone who needed surgery.
There were some supplies that I didn’t expect to be as useful as they were, as well as other supplies that I thought I’d use but didn’t. There were also some important items that I either didn’t have or didn’t have enough of. This is my rundown of essential—and unnecessary—supplies for Phalloplasty, and it will be particularly useful to those having staged ALT Phalloplasty at OHSU.
I spent a lot of time over several months planning the supplies I would need for my surgery recovery. While I was doing a test-run pack the day before my departure, I made up a manifest that documented everything that went into my case (using a sheet that had come in a recent purchase from Japan.) This task would not be necessary for most but because I was crossing an international border I thought a detailed list would come in handy, especially because I was entering the United States without a return ticket or a definitive return date. When the border agent sternly asked, “What’s in the case?” I was able to proudly produce the manifest that clearly itemized my benign belongings, much to his satisfaction.
While I was in hospital, my case was opened just once or twice; I didn’t really need much of anything that I’d brought while I was at OHSU. But EVERYONE who came into my room asked, like the border agent but with genial curiosity, “Wow, what’s in the case?!” This became a running joke! The only items I accessed in hospital were:
- Infinity Pillow – Unexpectedly, this turned out to be one of my best buys! I used it as my primary pillow in hospital and at the hotel. The unique design allowed me to prop my head up in different ways to stay comfortable. ($39.99)
- Plantronics Voyager Headset – This was great for speaking on the phone without having to hold it. ($79.99 CAD)
- Fan – My hospital room was kept very warm, especially in the first couple of days after surgery, so this was essential to keep from getting too hot! ($45.99 CAD)
- Battery Powered Tea Light – Added a little ambience to my hospital room at night.
- Hemp Protein – I mixed this with rice milk to get extra protein.
- Phone Charger and Extension Cord (aka Life Lines)
Once I was released from hospital and got to my hotel, the true value of my planning and packing came to light. The items that made a big difference included:
- Lap desk, plus extra keyboard, small wireless mouse and mouse pad (because I have a very small laptop) – These allowed me to get back to work—albeit inclined in bed—within just a couple of weeks of surgery. ($44.99)
- Trekking Pole – I chose this instead of a cane because I can get some post-surgery use of it, hiking in the mountains. ($30.13)
- Silicone Bendy Straws ($14.95)
- Medical Log Book – See: My List of Supplements and Homeopathics for Phalloplasty
- Telescopic Shoe Horn – Seriously, this gave me a little independence. ($4.99)
- Back Scratcher – Oh so necessary!
Other useful items:
- Hand mirror ($9.73)
- 2 pairs of large basketball shorts ($16.99 each) and sweatpants ($13.19 each), in dark colors.
- Black towel – I placed this over my thighs and groin to prevent staining the hotel bedding. (I also had a Chux pad under me.) I placed a 4×4 gauze pad over the end of the penis to maintain sterility.
- Dish towel and safety pins, to make a penis sling. The Cloud (see below) makes a penis sling redundant but eventually I found that my junk was getting irritated from the Kerlix so I devised The Cloud 2.0 that combined The Cloud and sling concepts and provided some relief from the chaffing. Back home, when I ran out of mesh underwear and Kerlix for The Cloud, I used old underwear, worn backwards with a hole for my penis (because the trap door on the front wasn’t supportive), with a dish towel sling (The Cloud 3.0.)
- Paper measuring tape, for taking penis measurements.
- Notebook and binder, for taking notes and storing OHSU documents
Back at home, I don’t have a recliner so I purchased a zero gravity lawn chair for $60 CAD and this turned out to be really useful.
The bulk of many of the packing and supplies lists found online is made up of medical supplies for wound dressing and management. While I purchased some of these items in advance, I was confident that I wouldn’t need many of the other items because my first 3 weeks out of hospital were supposed to be at a recovery facility (not associated with OHSU) where medical supplies would be provided. However, I wound up spending only 30 hours there and it was not a good experience! I had to shift gears fast, book a hotel suite and scramble to get the necessary medical supplies. OHSU helped out enormously by setting me up with a week’s worth of supplies (not to mention, re-admitting me for two extra days while I waited for my wife to arrive.) The rest I sourced from Amazon.com and had shipped to my hotel.
- Xeroform – I bought 2 boxes (50 count) months in advance of surgery on Amazon.com for $39.50 each. (Xeroform is at least twice as expensive in Canada!) I wound up using only 1/2 of one box. I’d heard that ALT patients use more occlusive dressings than RFF patients, whether Xeroform or Adaptic, but this was not my experience. I used one Xeroform dressing per day (actually, two as they come packaged in pairs.) By 3 weeks post-op, I was leaving my thigh undressed and unwrapped about 75% of the time. Less than one week later, I stopped dressing/wrapping completely.
- Hand Sanitizer Gel, 1 Fl Oz, 3-Pack ($7.88)
- Alcohol pads ($3.28)
- Q-Tips, regular length ($2.68)
- Polysporin Ointment, 1-Ounce Tubes, Pack of 3 ($30.85)
- 4×4 gauze pads ($5.97)
- Medical/Silk Tape ($3.61)
- Hydrogen Peroxide Spray – Originally purchased for removing blood stains but never used while in Portland, this wound up coming in handy when I was back home and had to pull out an abscessed suture and clean the area. ($3.62)
- Astroglide Silicone Personal Lubricant, 2.5 oz. – For daily dilating of urethra as well as scar care. ($8.59)
- Underpads / Chux pads – I bought WAY more of these than needed, lol. I got a case of 100 for $38.06 (hey, it was a good deal!) and used fewer than 20. (I suspect I’ll go through more with stage 2.)
- ScarAway Sheets, 8 Multi-Use, 1.5 X 3-Inch. ($24.99 CAD)
- Saline solution
- Dude Wipes – This brand of wet wipes is ideal as they are unscented and biodegradable. Huzzah, they’re also slightly cheaper in Canada! ($2.98 each or $8.45 CAD for 3.)
Supplies I Wished I Had or Had More Of
Mesh Underwear – I learned a lot more about mesh underwear than I thought I would! Dr. Berli’s supply list included “Underwear (not too loose, not too tight)” and I’m not sure why because I didn’t get back into normal underwear until 6 weeks post-op. What the list should have included was mesh underwear, which are needed for The Cloud. (All hail its inventor, the Phallo Queen!) The Cloud keeps the penis straight out at 90° and is made of mesh underwear with a hole in the front for the penis to fit through, plus an arrangement of 2-3 rolls of Kerlix gauze for support. Most patients stay “in The Cloud” for 4 weeks post-op but I stayed in it for 6 weeks. I’d heard that mesh underwear were handy post-op (I didn’t know about The Cloud yet) so I bought some in advance ($23.93 CAD/5 pairs) but the ones I found in Canada had a loose mesh and were not supportive enough. I bought some disposable underwear as a backup and these were even less useful. OHSU provided some mesh underwear when I was released from hospital but I would need more than this. I bought another brand that I had to return as the mesh was still too loose. It wasn’t until my 4th purchase that I found the right ones, with help from another OHSU patient. I went through one pair every day from my release from hospital until around mid-June, when I ran out and had to devise The Cloud 3.0. Ultimately, I would have needed about 35 pairs (at $14.57 for 5 or $18.90 CAD for 3, totaling just over $100 USD or $220 CAD.)
Kerlix Gauze Rolls – Surprisingly, I didn’t use much Kerlix for wrapping my donor site, but because I was in The Cloud for a little over 6 weeks instead of 4, I wound up using more Kerlix than anticipated. This is expensive in Canada, and I couldn’t find anything like Kerlix locally, so I ordered it from Amazon.com. In total, I used 108 rolls. (18 packages of 6 rolls at $8.50 each = $153. I’ve since learned of a couple of other places online where Kerlix can be purchased for less.)
6” Q-Tips – I didn’t know I would need these, but they are necessary for urethral maintenance. Every day, I pass a 16F catheter with some lube on it through the urethra in my penis, then scope with a 6” Q-tip. I will continue to do this until my stage 2 surgery. ($1.87 CAD/100)
Medihoney – While Medihoney is a recommended surgery supply, I didn’t think I would need it until stage 2. However, I had a suture abscess at the base of my penis that took 3 weeks to heal and it’s hard to say for certain but it may have healed faster if I could have obtained Medihoney sooner. ($13.90 CAD.)
Phone Holder (Gooseneck, clip-on style) – Another OHSU patient recommended one of these and I’m sure I would have found it helpful as my hands and arms got sore from holding my phone while in hospital.
Supplies and Items I Didn’t Use
- Medical gloves – OHSU provided enough of these that I didn’t need the box I’d purchased (at $9.22.)
- 3M Coban Self-Adhering Wrap – I noticed that many patients wrap their donor site in gauze then one of these, but I wrapped my thigh much less than I thought I would and never used these. ($6.24 each.)
- Foldable Reacher/Grabber – I briefly used this in the hotel, to rummage around and retrieve things from my case since I couldn’t bend over, but I didn’t use it as much as I thought I would and wouldn’t consider this an essential item to have. ($11.85)
- Urine bottle – I thought I might use this but it turned out to just be awkward. It now lives in the car, in case I ever get stuck in another 3-hour traffic jam on the I5! ($8.49)
- Leg strap – I re-purposed a packing strap and a conference lanyard to use as a leg lifter but never needed to use it.
- Senna pills
- Rescue Remedy
- Eye cover
- Protective Cup – Recommended for patients of Brownstein & Crane but apparently not applicable to my surgery as I couldn’t see how it would be useful.
- Books! I brought several books, including some large hard covers and never cracked any of them! Granted, I thought I would be alone for my recovery and in that case I probably would have been happy to have these but as it was I didn’t wind up doing any leisure reading.
Other often recommended items that I didn’t buy or need:
- Colace & MiraLAX
- Abdominal pads
- Sitting pad (donut or thick memory foam) – not needed until stage 2.
- Anti-nausea: Dramamine, Gravol
Not included: Vitamins, supplements, medications, snacks and food items.
Total Expenses for Supplies (excluding S&H): $559.23 USD + $209.57 CAD (approximately $160 USD) = about $720 USD. With shipping costs, a budget of $800 should get the job done. All prices in USD except where noted.
Now I’m moving on to making supply lists for my Stage 2 surgery. Have any suggestions? Leave a comment below.