Hello everyone! I posted this on the FFS support Yahoo group, but I thought that it might be of interest to all of you at Susans.
About six months ago I heard of a company called FemiLife in Lima, Peru, that advertises Facial Feminization via their website, http://www.FemiLife.com
. There are a fair number of people these days going to South America for facial Feminization surgery, because it is quite a bit less expensive than in the US, but nobody seemed to know anything about FemiLife. So, I contacted FemiLife, and asked about their company, sent them some photos, and asked for a price quote.
An affordable, good quality option for FFS is always welcome, so I did some research on Lima, and the quality of the medical care available there, and was surprised to learn that it is in fact very good.
I received a quote from FemiLife about six months ago, for an extremely reasonable price of about $13,000 US for everything I needed, which is basically a full FFS (forehead/eyebrow lift, nose, chin, jaw, trachea shave, and facelift. At first, I was taken aback by this low price, but it turns out to be a combination of good exchange rate with the US Dollar, and the low cost of medical care in Peru.
After corresponding with Nikky Sanchez at FemiLife, over the last six months or so, I decided to travel to Peru and see what Femilife had to offer with my own eyes, and have a consultation with them. Plus, I wanted to get away for a while from the cold Chicago winter. :-)
The flight from Chicago was fairly uneventful, aside from a crying baby or two and a slight bit of mild turbulence. It was about two hours to Houston, and then the flight to Lima was a tad over six hours. There are no non-stop flights from most cities in the US, so most of us coming from the US will be having at least one layover. I had a layover in Houston for about four hours, which was my choice… I could have taken a later flight from Chicago to Houston and just hopped right on the plane to Lima, but I like to give the airport crew ample time to pass my luggage onto the next flight.
Getting through customs and immigration was a breeze. I was given the forms to fill out on the airplane before I arrived in Lima, so I was ready by the time the plane landed and I got to the those areas.
I was met at the airport by Nikky and her assistant. They drove me to the hotel, and along the way we chatted and made small talk, and we discussed the schedule over the coming days.
I do not speak much Spanish, I only know certain words and phrases, how to say "Thank you" "Good morning/afternoon/evening" and single words. Nikky's assistant accompanied her to the airport, and, between the three of us, after an initial adjustment period, we communicated just fine.
In most of the touristy areas of Lima, people will speak at least enough English for a non-spanish speaker to get by, so it's not as much of a problem as one would think.
House Sucre, the hotel recommended by Nikki, is an old house, converted into a hotel. This is the hotel where clients of FemiLife come to recover, and the cost of which is included in Femilife's price quotes. The house is very cozy, the owners and staff are nice and speak English. There is a small breakfast area where they serve a nice, complimentary continental breakfast: Orange juice, coffee, toast, and they even made me a nice omelette. There is WiFi access (ask for the password) and there is also a PC here for the use of the hotel guests. I like the homey feel of House Sucre, and the staff is very pleasant and eager to help. Food can be brought up to the room by the staff on request, as well as fresh towels, soap, any basics one might require.
One thing about the hotel - there is no air conditioning. As a matter of fact, air conditioning seems to be quite rare everywhere in Lima, except where it's needed. The big chain hotels are air conditioned, but will be more expensive. The temperature in Lima is quite mild, there are no huge extremes, being close to the ocean.. but in the summer it can be a bit hot and humid sometimes. It is possible to stay in a different hotel if desired, but this one is close to FemiLife's office, so it is easy for Nikky to attend to her client's needs.
I don't find it bothersome at alI, I just opened the windows if I was hot, closed them if I was cold. After my experiences during my stay there, I would have no problems staying in House Sucre for my recovery. I prefer the smaller, homey feel of House Sucre, and the staff is very pleasant and eager to help.
The day after I arrived in Lima, i met with Dr. Sergio Pimentel, craniofacial specialist, and main surgeon of FemiLife. When having the initial consultation with Dr. Pimentel, the first step is to have imaging done of the head. In the morning, we went to an Imaging centre, where I had a 3-D CT scan done of my head. The images were put on a CD-ROM and brought to Dr. Pimentel's office, where he put up all the images on his computer screen, along with pictures taken of my face from every angle. The images are used to create an actual, physical, 3D model of the skull, which Dr. Pimentel studies, and modifies to show exactly how much bone he would remove, and where.
I was extremely impressed by this approach. As far as I know, there is not one other surgeon doing FFS who does this… Maybe one who will use a CT scan to see the thickness of the bones, but creating a physical model is not an approach I have heard of. Being able to see ahead of time the structure and thickness of all the bones in the face seems like a very thorough approach, and a good idea to me.
And, the costs for all these tests, as well as all blood tests and medicines, are covered in the price quotes from FemiLife. Nikky stated that FemiLife's goal is to make their client's visits painless and trouble-free, by making sure that the client does not have to worry about anything but recovering from the surgery. So, all medical costs, transportation, and the hotel itself are all included.
Dr. Pimentel himself is a very nice man, he speaks English wonderfully, and seems very competent. We chatted about his approach to FFS, and he said that he tries to move as many of the male features of the face into the female range as he can, but while still making the results smooth and not too extreme. He does perform the “Type 3” sinus setback procedure. He has had extensive experience with trauma patients, a hallmark of craniofacial specialists, but he has been doing FFS for a number of years now. He seems to have a very firm grasp on the intricacies and details of performing FFS surgery, and the risks and complications possible. I quizzed him on various topics, and I left his office feeling very positive about his abilities. He was very patient and willing to answer any questions I had.
I also toured the surgical center where the FFS is performed, NovoCardio. It's a well equipped small surgical center, clean, and seemingly has all the necessary equipment to perform the surgery cleanly and safely. There is an observation room for people immediately out of surgery, and then a recovery room. The staff seems quite friendly. I met the nurses who personally assist with the surgeries, and they were friendly and inviting.
The rest of my stay in Lima was very enjoyable. The people there are very friendly and hospitable. If you are a seafood fan, you will be in heaven in Lima. The Seafood is literally pulled out of the ocean hours before it is served. Especially good food items are Ceviche, a classic Peruvian seafood dish, and a drink called Pisco Sour (especially with passionfruit in it).
If you are not a seafood fan, try it anyway. You might be a fan by the time you leave Lima. The food is that good!
There are many other things to do in Lima as far as sightseeing. Whilst I was there, I took a nighttime tour of Lima by bus, which was quite fun. There are also wonderful shopping areas and parks to visit, with vendors selling various jewelry, knick-knacks, clothing, and artwork.
Lima, as well as other cities in South America, have really changed in the last 5 years. Dr. Pimentel commented on this as well, in my conversations with him. Of course, Peru is still a developing country, and with any large city you do have an element of crime, and Lima is no exception. There seems to be a theft problem here, but keep an eye on your things and be aware of your surroundings, and you'll be fine. Common sense is the key here.. Most of you who have been to larger cities know the routine.. I never felt unsafe anywhere in Miraflores or San Isidro, and it's likely that most people coming here for surgery won't be going many other places than these areas.
As with most other countries in this area, it is not recommended to drink the water out of the tap. There is bottled water everywhere, and most restaurants serve filtered water, so I never had a problem with any stomach ailments or any sicknesses while I was there.
Lima has plenty of US chain restaurants, including Chilis and TGI Friday's. There are Starbucks seemingly everywhere. I also saw KFC, and Papa John's Pizza. I think McDonald's is a given anywhere in the world these days. Most places accept the US Dollar, as well as the Nuevo Sol. I have paid in US Dollars and then gotten change in Soles. The exchange rate as of right now is about 1 US Dollar - 2.75 Soles. ATMs dispense either Soles or Dollars.
The experience I had in Lima, Peru and with Femilife honestly impressed me greatly. It was very apparent to me after my conversations and the time I spent with Nikky, that she is a very sweet, caring woman who tries her best to make everyone's experience trouble free, and desires to help the trans community. One of her main goals, she told me, is to provide a reasonably priced alternative for those of us who desire FFS surgery, but may not be able to afford it in our own countries. She believes that FFS is one of the most important, life changing things in transition, and she wants it to be possible for all of us to be able to afford it.
After my experience with FemiLife and seeing what they have to offer, I've definitely decided that I am going to return to Lima for my surgery later this year, as soon as I can arrange it.
I know that this report is overwhelmingly positive, and well, that's because I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. I didn't know what to expect when I went down there, and I was a bit nervous having never been outside of the US... And the stories I've heard about South America have been less than positive. So, to have a completely different experience, was very nice indeed!
If any if you have any questions about my trip or my experience, feel free to ask... I don't have any information on specific pricing though so any questions related to surgeries and pricing and the like should be directed to Nikky, and not me.
Nikky Sanchez's email:nsanchez@FemiLife.com
Take care everyone,