Bay Area hospital steps in to help transgender patients

GREENBRAE, Calif. (KGO) -- Ever since Caitlin Jenner revealed her plans to transition from male to female, there's been an increased focus on the transgender process. But resources for patients seeking the surgery are still limited. Now, a Bay Area hospital is stepping in to help make the process easier.

It's a long ride from Chico to Marin County. But it's nothing like the twisting road that Eirin Auld has been traveling in her own life. The former Marine spent several years looking for gender reassignment surgery.

"I'm in a rural community," Eirin said. "My research was pretty intense. My primary care doctor wouldn't have the beginnings of where to send me, so it was doing it on my own and doing the research."

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After months of research and more than a year of waiting, Eirin was finally able to turn to Dr. Thomas Satterwhite with the Brownstein & Crane surgery practice in Marin County. And even that was a tight squeeze.

"At this point I'm booking about six to seven months down the line," said Satterwhite. "My surgical partner is booking a year and a half down the line."

Almost everyone is familiar with the impact of Caitlin Jenner's decision to share details of her sex change with America.

But changes in the Affordable Care Act and other laws now provide at least partial coverage for procedures that were once unaffordable to many patients. So demand is expected to increase.

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But it's estimated that there are fewer than 40 full-time surgeons serving the transgender community. And just a handful of hospital surgery centers offer specialized services.

But now, Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae is launching a transgender surgical program of its own.

ABC7 News caught up with Satterwhite as he was performing a male-to-female procedure. The operating room staff all received training in several specialized surgeries.

"So we have a kind of transgender team of nurses and staff who will be taking care of our patients," he said.

After surgery, the hospital has dedicated recovery rooms that are staffed by nurses who oversee specialized care ranging from the physical recovery to helping patients adjust to their new gender.

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"That all the nurses, all the staff, that they are all able to appropriately identify them in the manner that they want to be identified," he said.

It's all a welcome change for Eirin, who's already undergone several procedures on the road to reassignment.

"It's a long process and it's a difficult road," Eirin said. "You have to be patient with it."

But she's hoping that road will soon be smoother for transgender patients who travel it in the years to come.

Click here for full coverage on transgender issues.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.
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