My Nightmare Trip to Thailand:
GRS with Dr. Ruch Wongtrungkapon

By Gerry

April 22, 2004

The following letter is long and detailed, but it should be read by anyone planning to undergo surgery in Thailand. My hope is to make others aware of this situation, so that no one else will suffer.

I traveled to Bangkok in March 2004 to undergo GRS with Dr. Ruch Wongtrungkapon at Ramkhamhaeng Hospital. Although my partner had significant reservations about my going to Thailand for surgery, I thought I had done sufficient Internet research to feel confident in my selection. Like always, I should have listened to her. Now we are living a nightmare.

The plane trip from the USA was long and tiring but uneventful. I arrived in Bangkok at 11:50 PM and made it through Thai customs with no trouble. I was met at the airport by one of the hospital's international programs people and it was a quick 30-minute taxi ride to the hotel that they had arranged for me. It was a nice business class hotel at a rate much lower than it would have been in the States.

I was told that I would meet with the doctor the next day at 4:00 PM, so I should enjoy the time to sleep in. I was given a phone number to call when I got up, and told that someone would come over to meet me. I was up at 6:00 AM, so I tried to kill some time and walked around some, but the hospital was in an area where there was really nothing to see. I thought that maybe we could meet earlier, but when I called the number and finally got someone on the phone they told me that they would meet me at 3:30 PM. I tried to watch TV and then a short time later they called to see if I wanted to eat lunch. This was after being told three times that I was not to eat before my hospital testing at 4:00 PM. I said no, and this should have been a clue that this was not a good place to have my surgery performed.

Later that afternoon I met Dennis and Ying, the international programs workers who were to be my personal escort through the whole process. They had a taxi take us to the hospital for my presurgical tests. Ying was with me the whole time and made it so easy. She answered any questions that the hospital staff or I had. Afterwards we waited about 15 minutes for all the tests to be read and the results to be given to Dr. Ruch.

We then meet with Dr. Ruch, who gave me a quick physical exam and sat down with me to talk about the various procedures. I asked about possible complications and he told me not to worry but to be happy, that I would be fine. He recommended that I have a penile inversion, since he felt that there was enough skin to work with. He scheduled the procedure for first thing the next morning, so I needed to come back to the hospital at 6:00 AM the next day to prepare. I was given antibiotics to take that night and was told not to eat anything after 9:00 PM that night. Ying took me back to the hotel and told me she would pick me up first thing in the morning.

It was a little hard to sleep that night, but I figured that I would be sleeping most of the next day anyway. The next morning Ying was there right at 6:00 AM to help me check out and take me to the hospital. I was taken to the ER for minor tests (blood pressure and temperature) and then given a consent form to sign for the surgery. This was a single page with a few paragraphs written in Thai. I was told what it was and that I was to sign it. They then took me to a private room that looked like a hotel room. I was given scrubs to put on and waited for them to come and give me an enema. I was told to wait for 15 minutes and then go to the bathroom. I did so, and while in the bathroom I passed out for a brief time. I woke up on the floor. I remember calling out for about what seemed like 10 minutes for help before two nurses came in and saw me on the floor. They then helped me to the bed.

About an hour later they came to take me to the operating room. I was conscious and talking with the doctor and the nurses as they placed me on the table. The doctor noticed that I looked a little tense and asked about what had happened in the bathroom earlier that morning. He told me everything would be fine and that I needed to be happy again and relax. The operating room looked like any other operating room that I have seen in the States, a little dated but fine. The anesthesiologist came in and she told me she would be putting me under soon and asked all the normal allergy questions and explained what she was going to do. I soon felt a poke in the arm and that was all.

It was about 10:00 AM when I woke up. I was in my room and I did not feel any pain. I asked to call the States to tell my partner that I was out and fine, so she could stop worrying. They placed the call for me after I gave them the number. I then went back to sleep. I woke up the next morning at 5:00 AM, having a hard time breathing. I called the nurse's station but when they came in they could not understand what I was trying to tell them. The nurse did not understand English and I asked for her to call Ying and she did not understand that so I found that if I lay on my left side I could breath slowly. So I just told her that she was not helping and that I would deal with it on my own. A few hours later it was time for my temperature and blood pressure and the only thing that hurt was my back and sides from the bed. It was like sleeping on a board.

Later Ying came in, and I told her about my breathing - I was still having problems -- and about the bed, which was killing me. She went and found me another bed that was softer and had it changed. I was only a little numb at the surgical site and the bandage was uncomfortable but the pain was not bad. That afternoon the doctor came in for a visit and to make sure all was well. I told him about the breathing and he said that it would clear up and to drink a little water. I also said that the bandage was killing me and he just said that it would all be fine. My breathing did not get better for three days, so I suffered with slow shallow breaths.

There was a TV in the room that got Starz Asia movie channel, CNN news channel and National Geographic channel. Sometimes it was in Thai, but it helped make the time go faster. I was on a clear liquid diet for the next 4 days, so food was not a choice.

I was to check out of the hospital on the fifth day. The evening before, the doctor took off the bandage and took the catheter out, and told me everything looked good. He showed me in a mirror. I had some questions about the appearance of things and he said that it was because it was still swollen. I asked about dilation and he told me not to do it for two weeks after I got home or until everything had healed. I broke down because I then knew that something was very wrong. Ever other doctor that I had talked to told me they would have me start dilating after the packing was removed. So the doctor went and found a candle and carved it into a shape of a dilator and had them bring me a condom to put over it. That was what I was to use till I got home and got my own. He told me to just go buy any dildo that I could find. I was not happy about that but the damage was done now. He did not even show or tell me how I should do it when I got home, or for how long, or anything. He made me feel like, once I was out of there and on my own, it was not his problem anymore.

On the morning of the fifth day I had a temperature and the doctor did not want me to leave, so I stayed another day in the hospital. Ying asked what I wanted for my first real meal and I said pizza. She ordered a Pizza Hut pizza for me to be delivered to the hospital. The hospital put it on a plate and made a great presentation for it. They could not just bring me food in the box or bag. That happened another night when I wanted McDonalds. It was the first time I had ever had it served to me on china.

But, back to my temperature. They ran a few tests the next day and found that I had a urinary tract infection. They were going to keep me in the hospital until it cleared up. That was fine with me because the next day was a little rough, with fever and chills. I had some discomfort from the surgery and was having a little trouble with peeing. This was from some extra tissue that I questioned the doctor about earlier. They started me on IV antibiotics, which took care of my infection. They brought in an infection specialist to make sure it was clear and gone. I still was not allowed to leave the hospital. I had my final exam on Tuesday night after dinner, when we took photos of everyone and the doctor said that everything was healing fine and that I could go home the next morning. I was given a sheet with the answers to all the questions that I had on aftercare. I told him that I was still having trouble peeing and had pain on my right side of the site. He never took a look at it and just said that it was swelling and would go away. I was told to go home and be happy. I was taken to the airport the next morning and told to have a good flight.

It has been four weeks since my surgery and I am having more complications. The area that was made for my clitoris has no feeling and is very pale. I still can not pee right and it is getting worse, and I have blood coming from where the sections forming the neovagina are coming apart (photos). I can feel the extra tissue that was left in my right labia, if you can call it that. It gives me great pain and it is still hard for me to sit. I stand most of the day. I continue to have little "shocks" from the site as my brain is remapping it.

I have tried to communicate with the Thai doctor about these problems and have gotten no responses. Dr. Ruch will not send my records to me so that I can take them to a doctor in the US. This was after I was told that all my records would be given to me before I left. So now I have nowhere to turn. I keep trying to get this worked out some way, but there is no help from them.

I feel the only thing that I can do now is to tell people not to use this doctor or hospital. They are nice while you are there, but heaven forbid that you have something go wrong. I feel that this was more of a pay-and-get-your- operation-type place and that is what counted to them. The outside is nice, but after living through it, you see the inside and you are on your own. Please do not use this place for your operation. Save your money and have it done right, or you will waste your money to have it redone right, like I now have to. Please do not put your life on the line -- I found out it is not worth it in the long run.

May 4, 2004

Here is an update. I have faxed letters from two of my doctors requesting my medical records, and one of my doctors has emailed a request directly. But they still will not let us have a copy of my medical records. My urethra is now 95% closed, I donít have good bladder control, and there are still drops of blood coming from open wounds after dilation. I have major pain from the extra corpus spongiosum on the right side. The doctors here still do not understand why this problem was not caught while I was in Thailand, but they want to deal with the urethra problem first.

© 2011 by Anne A. Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D. All rights reserved.