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voice feminization with dr. haben of professionalvoice.org in rochester, new york usa


Jeanette West

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My Journey Through Voice Feminization with Dr. M. Haben of professionalvoice.org

I found Dr. Haben’s clinic back in the early 2000’s while perusing the internet in my university dorm room. I listened to the audio clips of the voices he had feminized, and knew this was a procedure I would get some day.

Once I became serious about vocal surgery, and had the money saved, I emailed the clinic about a consultation, and was informed consultations are performed in-person, the day before surgery. Enquiring about surgery dates found there was one open on November 3, which was perfect for me, so I told the office manager I was sending the $3500.00 deposit to her that day in an Express Mail envelope; she agreed to hold the date for me.

A few days later the envelope arrived, I received a call from Dr. Haben’s office manager and it was set. I would arrive in Rochester on Monday November 1, and get checked in to my hotel, on Tuesday I would go the doctor’s office and have the consultation and on Wednesday November 3, I would go to Unity Hospital in Rochester at 0930 to begin the check in process for the surgery, which would only last an hour thereabouts. Thursday November 4, a final check; I could return home.

Two weeks prior to my leaving Bethel, Alaska USA for Rochester, I received a call from a nurse at Unity Hospital so we could go over all the medical questions on the phone, rather than my filling out paperwork the day I arrived.

I flew to Rochester while my nurse, Lisa Lopez of Compassionate Care, drove from Hammond, Indiana USA to meet me at my hotel. I had arrived at the Airport Marriot earlier in the day, whilst she arrived around 5:00 pm. While enjoying dinner, we went over the post-op instructions yet again, and planned out our next couple of days.

Tuesday morning, we arrived at Dr. Haben’s practice, it looked exactly as it does on his webpage, the warm orangish paint and the arrangements, to fill out a few papers then was ushered in to his exam room. Dr. Haben came in only a few moments later. He is slim, energetic, personable, but carries an air of no-nonsense; he’s very intelligent and expects you to be so too, that and you’ve done your homework and memorized the after-care for the procedure you’ll be having. He is also A True Believer in masks and flu-shots, but he isn’t rude about it.

After introductions, where are you from what work do you do and other small-talk, he had me read much of The Rainbow Passage while measuring the pitch of my voice which I normally keep about 100-115Hz. He then told me, “If you want me to give you the best voice I can, I need to hear your real voice”. I actually had to think about that a moment, then begin speaking at my “real” ~88Hz, in the low-male range. He played an “E” on the electric piano, and had me hold it for a moment. Humorously telling me, “now you get the nasty stuff”, he proceeded to spray a horrible tasting liquid into my mouth and throat, it didn’t seem to numb anything that I could tell, but when the endoscope went down my throat, there was ZERO gag-reflex; a wondrous, nasty stuff indeed! Asking for a sustained E, Dr. Haben videoed my vocal cords at the same time saving audio. He put up the video to show my vocal cords, explained exactly what he would do in the OR and how the aftercare related to keeping the all-important Stitch intact. This bears repeating: The Stitch is to remain intact as long as possible, and strict voice silence bears heavily on the lifetime of The Stitch. After this, we were told to be at the hospital surgery wing at 0930 and all would go as planned, taking roughly 45 minutes to an hour, after recovering, I should be out before noon. The evaluation lasted maybe 45-minutes.

Wednesday Lisa and I Uber’d to the hospital, arriving 30 minutes early as I anticipated paperwork, insurance (there’s always paperwork, yes), and anything else Murphy could throw in my way. All took very little time; I found my insurance didn’t cover anything so coughed up my credit card for the last $6397.00. Earlier I telephoned my credit card provider, USAA Federal Savings Bank, to tell them to expect a large charge from Unity Hospital so it went right through. The woman taking my information was pleasant and professional.

We sat in the waiting area for only 2-3 minutes when an OR nurse came to get me prepped, standing outside the curtained cubicle as I dressed in the flimsy hospital gown, then taking me to my gurney to set up the IV. My anesthesiologist came in to introduce herself while I was getting my IV. I didn’t like her; she had a cold, impersonal way about her, like she would rather be doing something else.

Just then Dr. Haben came in, went over the procedure quickly, and asked if I had any final questions. I reminded him I had told the office manager I wanted the Botox injections into the vocal cord muscles to help prevent inadvertent speech. Apparently, she hadn’t told him, and so was surprised. He ordered Botox from the OR nurse standing by, then the anesthesiologist summarily injected me with a dose of Good-Night.

I awoke in the recovery room with Lisa by my side. All was well until I found that ass of an anesthesiologist had broken my two front teeth. Now, to be fair, the very ends of my teeth were very sharp and being so, were thin. I could tell she was rough as Hell intubating me as the anesthesiologist for my FFS with Dr. Zukowski 10-months previous hadn’t broken or chipped them. Either way, I was awake when Dr. Haben came in, gave my prescriptions to Lisa, and told me he’d be back for a final check so I could get out of there; this was a little after noon. Lisa came back from the hospital pharmacy without my codeine cough syrup, similar to Cheracol-C you used to be able to get OTC. When Dr, Haben came back, Lisa told him, “they don’t have the prescription, they said they never received it”, this genuinely made him angry. I overheard him on the telephone speaking to the pharmacist that, “the prescriptions were both faxed and emailed, how can one go missing, if it is included in one electronic transmission with the others, all of which you get”. This conversation went on for a while. Seems they like to play games with the doctor, where I think a conversation with the hospital director would put a stop to that. We didn’t get out of the recovery room until 4:30 in the afternoon because of the wholly unprofessional antics of the pharmacy; I strongly recommend anyone seeing Dr. Haben insist on taking the prescriptions to a private pharmacy to be filled the night before the operation.

We went to the surgery waiting area where I asked, via my notepad, if the receptionist could call us a taxi. She looked at me and asked, “which one”. I told her I was new to Rochester, that she was on a computer, she could look under ‘taxi’s’ and just anyone would do”. She was catty in the extreme. While she huffily stomped on the keyboard, a woman in the waiting area called to me, “I called one for you”. I thanked her sincerely and was amazed the receptionist didn’t even bother to look at us; she was back to playing on the computer. And this isn’t a dinky little hospital out in the sticks, you’d think they’d take some time to hire better personnel.

Back at the hotel, I took my anti-nausea meds, and the codeine laced syrup and was fine. About 8:00 p.m. I did get VERY nauseous, but that passed after I had some ice-cream.

Thursday November 4, the day after the surgery we were back at Dr. Haven’s clinic to have him take one more look down my throat. He pronounced The Stitch to be in perfect condition and to do everything I could to stay away from acidic foods (they degrade The Stitch), and not cough or clear my throat as much as possible. To this end I had my large Thermos of peppermint tea laced with four tablespoons of honey and three of lemon juice to be sipped throughout the day, every day, for 29 more days. Lisa and I left the clinic immediately beginning our journey driving back to Chicago so I wouldn’t have to deal with heavy bags and air travel immediately after the surgery, allowing a few days recovery and just to have fun. We paused at The Best Western Inn in Elyria, Ohio USA to overnight before completing our journey the next day in Chicago.

It is December 1st and I cannot wait to begin using my voice; it is intensely isolating to not be able to speak.

To summate: from initial contact, scheduling, traveling, surgery and return, I had no real problems. I was treated well, professionally, and with care, except by the anesthesiologist. If I had to do it over, I would ask my personal physician to prescribe anti-nausea medications, along with 5-6 good pain meds; Haben refuses to prescribe anything other than ibuprofen or Tylenol. MAKE SURE you tell him you want the Botox injections. You’re paying huge money for this, $800.00 is only 7% of the overall cost for this added insurance. You may be scrupulously following the doctors silence regime but what about when you are asleep? Lastly; the Botox will make swallowing more challenging: CHEW your food thoroughly and have plenty of water to add before swallowing, you don’t want to start coughing and choking; I know from experience. Only the future will tell if my voice comes out 195Hz like I desire, it takes up to a year for the voice to mature.

I haven’t included the cost for Compassionate Care, Lisa Lopez, my nurse, because her driving to meet me two States over added to her overall charge which is only reasonable. She may be reached at fabulouslopez555 AT yahoo DOT com: remove the AT exchange with @ and DOT with a . I wrote it this way to defeat the web-bots.

I know this went long, I wanted to flesh this out for you to get the feel of the entire journey.

Costs:

$3500.00 deposit

  6397.00 final

  1900.00 airfare

    900.00 hotel

12,597.00 total

Link to comment
1 hour ago, Jeanette West said:

My Journey Through Voice Feminization with Dr. M. Haben of professionalvoice.org

I found Dr. Haben’s clinic back in the early 2000’s while perusing the internet in my university dorm room. I listened to the audio clips of the voices he had feminized, and knew this was a procedure I would get some day.

Once I became serious about vocal surgery, and had the money saved, I emailed the clinic about a consultation, and was informed consultations are performed in-person, the day before surgery. Enquiring about surgery dates found there was one open on November 3, which was perfect for me, so I told the office manager I was sending the $3500.00 deposit to her that day in an Express Mail envelope; she agreed to hold the date for me.

A few days later the envelope arrived, I received a call from Dr. Haben’s office manager and it was set. I would arrive in Rochester on Monday November 1, and get checked in to my hotel, on Tuesday I would go the doctor’s office and have the consultation and on Wednesday November 3, I would go to Unity Hospital in Rochester at 0930 to begin the check in process for the surgery, which would only last an hour thereabouts. Thursday November 4, a final check; I could return home.

Two weeks prior to my leaving Bethel, Alaska USA for Rochester, I received a call from a nurse at Unity Hospital so we could go over all the medical questions on the phone, rather than my filling out paperwork the day I arrived.

I flew to Rochester while my nurse, Lisa Lopez of Compassionate Care, drove from Hammond, Indiana USA to meet me at my hotel. I had arrived at the Airport Marriot earlier in the day, whilst she arrived around 5:00 pm. While enjoying dinner, we went over the post-op instructions yet again, and planned out our next couple of days.

Tuesday morning, we arrived at Dr. Haben’s practice, it looked exactly as it does on his webpage, the warm orangish paint and the arrangements, to fill out a few papers then was ushered in to his exam room. Dr. Haben came in only a few moments later. He is slim, energetic, personable, but carries an air of no-nonsense; he’s very intelligent and expects you to be so too, that and you’ve done your homework and memorized the after-care for the procedure you’ll be having. He is also A True Believer in masks and flu-shots, but he isn’t rude about it.

After introductions, where are you from what work do you do and other small-talk, he had me read much of The Rainbow Passage while measuring the pitch of my voice which I normally keep about 100-115Hz. He then told me, “If you want me to give you the best voice I can, I need to hear your real voice”. I actually had to think about that a moment, then begin speaking at my “real” ~88Hz, in the low-male range. He played an “E” on the electric piano, and had me hold it for a moment. Humorously telling me, “now you get the nasty stuff”, he proceeded to spray a horrible tasting liquid into my mouth and throat, it didn’t seem to numb anything that I could tell, but when the endoscope went down my throat, there was ZERO gag-reflex; a wondrous, nasty stuff indeed! Asking for a sustained E, Dr. Haben videoed my vocal cords at the same time saving audio. He put up the video to show my vocal cords, explained exactly what he would do in the OR and how the aftercare related to keeping the all-important Stitch intact. This bears repeating: The Stitch is to remain intact as long as possible, and strict voice silence bears heavily on the lifetime of The Stitch. After this, we were told to be at the hospital surgery wing at 0930 and all would go as planned, taking roughly 45 minutes to an hour, after recovering, I should be out before noon. The evaluation lasted maybe 45-minutes.

Wednesday Lisa and I Uber’d to the hospital, arriving 30 minutes early as I anticipated paperwork, insurance (there’s always paperwork, yes), and anything else Murphy could throw in my way. All took very little time; I found my insurance didn’t cover anything so coughed up my credit card for the last $6397.00. Earlier I telephoned my credit card provider, USAA Federal Savings Bank, to tell them to expect a large charge from Unity Hospital so it went right through. The woman taking my information was pleasant and professional.

We sat in the waiting area for only 2-3 minutes when an OR nurse came to get me prepped, standing outside the curtained cubicle as I dressed in the flimsy hospital gown, then taking me to my gurney to set up the IV. My anesthesiologist came in to introduce herself while I was getting my IV. I didn’t like her; she had a cold, impersonal way about her, like she would rather be doing something else.

Just then Dr. Haben came in, went over the procedure quickly, and asked if I had any final questions. I reminded him I had told the office manager I wanted the Botox injections into the vocal cord muscles to help prevent inadvertent speech. Apparently, she hadn’t told him, and so was surprised. He ordered Botox from the OR nurse standing by, then the anesthesiologist summarily injected me with a dose of Good-Night.

I awoke in the recovery room with Lisa by my side. All was well until I found that ass of an anesthesiologist had broken my two front teeth. Now, to be fair, the very ends of my teeth were very sharp and being so, were thin. I could tell she was rough as Hell intubating me as the anesthesiologist for my FFS with Dr. Zukowski 10-months previous hadn’t broken or chipped them. Either way, I was awake when Dr. Haben came in, gave my prescriptions to Lisa, and told me he’d be back for a final check so I could get out of there; this was a little after noon. Lisa came back from the hospital pharmacy without my codeine cough syrup, similar to Cheracol-C you used to be able to get OTC. When Dr, Haben came back, Lisa told him, “they don’t have the prescription, they said they never received it”, this genuinely made him angry. I overheard him on the telephone speaking to the pharmacist that, “the prescriptions were both faxed and emailed, how can one go missing, if it is included in one electronic transmission with the others, all of which you get”. This conversation went on for a while. Seems they like to play games with the doctor, where I think a conversation with the hospital director would put a stop to that. We didn’t get out of the recovery room until 4:30 in the afternoon because of the wholly unprofessional antics of the pharmacy; I strongly recommend anyone seeing Dr. Haben insist on taking the prescriptions to a private pharmacy to be filled the night before the operation.

We went to the surgery waiting area where I asked, via my notepad, if the receptionist could call us a taxi. She looked at me and asked, “which one”. I told her I was new to Rochester, that she was on a computer, she could look under ‘taxi’s’ and just anyone would do”. She was catty in the extreme. While she huffily stomped on the keyboard, a woman in the waiting area called to me, “I called one for you”. I thanked her sincerely and was amazed the receptionist didn’t even bother to look at us; she was back to playing on the computer. And this isn’t a dinky little hospital out in the sticks, you’d think they’d take some time to hire better personnel.

Back at the hotel, I took my anti-nausea meds, and the codeine laced syrup and was fine. About 8:00 p.m. I did get VERY nauseous, but that passed after I had some ice-cream.

Thursday November 4, the day after the surgery we were back at Dr. Haven’s clinic to have him take one more look down my throat. He pronounced The Stitch to be in perfect condition and to do everything I could to stay away from acidic foods (they degrade The Stitch), and not cough or clear my throat as much as possible. To this end I had my large Thermos of peppermint tea laced with four tablespoons of honey and three of lemon juice to be sipped throughout the day, every day, for 29 more days. Lisa and I left the clinic immediately beginning our journey driving back to Chicago so I wouldn’t have to deal with heavy bags and air travel immediately after the surgery, allowing a few days recovery and just to have fun. We paused at The Best Western Inn in Elyria, Ohio USA to overnight before completing our journey the next day in Chicago.

It is December 1st and I cannot wait to begin using my voice; it is intensely isolating to not be able to speak.

To summate: from initial contact, scheduling, traveling, surgery and return, I had no real problems. I was treated well, professionally, and with care, except by the anesthesiologist. If I had to do it over, I would ask my personal physician to prescribe anti-nausea medications, along with 5-6 good pain meds; Haben refuses to prescribe anything other than ibuprofen or Tylenol. MAKE SURE you tell him you want the Botox injections. You’re paying huge money for this, $800.00 is only 7% of the overall cost for this added insurance. You may be scrupulously following the doctors silence regime but what about when you are asleep? Lastly; the Botox will make swallowing more challenging: CHEW your food thoroughly and have plenty of water to add before swallowing, you don’t want to start coughing and choking; I know from experience. Only the future will tell if my voice comes out 195Hz like I desire, it takes up to a year for the voice to mature.

I haven’t included the cost for Compassionate Care, Lisa Lopez, my nurse, because her driving to meet me two States over added to her overall charge which is only reasonable. She may be reached at fabulouslopez555 AT yahoo DOT com: remove the AT exchange with @ and DOT with a . I wrote it this way to defeat the web-bots.

I know this went long, I wanted to flesh this out for you to get the feel of the entire journey.

Costs:

$3500.00 deposit

  6397.00 final

  1900.00 airfare

    900.00 hotel

12,597.00 total

That's a lot to go through. I hope you keep us updated. I may go for this myself some day. Thanks

Link to comment
33 minutes ago, Jamie68 said:

That's a lot to go through. I hope you keep us updated. I may go for this myself some day. Thanks

My pleasure Jamie. Back in 1988 when I was diagnosed, there was no internet and NO information available. I want to make sure anyone thinking about procedures has information with which to work. Reading after dinner for an hour or so doesn't cost any money, best do it and any other research, as it's free, whereas the procedures are definitely not. Get that research done to reduce anxiety.

I have been accused of being "a planner", well, this is my way of reducing my anxiety and making sure to myself I'll have the outcome I wish to have. So....there you go. Good luck!

Link to comment

Thank you for all the information. As I’m older, I’m planning to have the “triple,” with Dr. Haben, but I haven’t made up my mind just yet. Please keep us updated! Much appreciated!

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I would like to add a correction to my review:

Dr. Haben prescribed 60-days Omeprazole to prevent acid reflux, I was referring to asking your personal physician for 2-3 days strong anti-nausea meds to prevent vomiting right after the surgery; I experienced powerful nausea even though I had taken what Dr. Haben had given me. And it was his your order to have enough honey-lemon laced tea to sip all day every day to last the 30-days; it really works to keep the phlegm from building in the throat to minimize having to clear one's throat and protect that Stitch.

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      That's kind of new to me too, the idea of "hun/honey" being a derogatory thing (I date back to the 1980's, FWIW, so I guess that makes me relatively old).   To me personally, it sounds like the kind of thing that's not so much about "what" someone says, and more about "how" they say it. I mean, I can certainly imagine "hun/honey" being used in a derogatory way, but I've never known it to be inherently derogatory. But that's just me. Maybe it could a regional thing?
    • swallow
      Hi Everyone,   Don't really know where to post this...🤔   I've been so busy the last 3 weeks helping with an Art Fair in LA.😓   Its been ups and downs at the job but I was very happy my boss gave me the opportunity since aside from film production, I have zero experience in the Art world.🤫   In between, I've almost lost lots of money for her and almost compromised her because I Copied everyone instead of Blind copied.😣   But I managed to salvage the situations ...what I'd deem as taking a -crap- and coming out smelling like roses.🤭   During the Art show I found I was rather more in my element.😌   I was of course still employing a male voice and had soon established an effective control on the floor crew, started to whip things into action albeit still in a gentle non Alpha male feminine lead by example, organize and encourage manner.😊   But the girls in the office and everyone still gendered me as male and called me He or Sir.   Partly this was because I had told my boss that she should use whatever was more natural in terms of pronouns for both her and everyone-else and not make much issue of it.   Of course it still bothered me deep down.😔   Anyway come show days I got a bit more bold with my dress sense.   I had feminine clothing on the entire pre-production but I shed inhibition and started first to wear a frilly see through black blouse and waist high paperbag Khaki trouser on the first day. I elected for trousers since we went full day and into the night and I needed full mobility across the show floor.   But as the show days progress, I was assign partially to a more sedentary paced Door Bitch duty at the VIP lounge for some periods.   So I decided it was time for the dresses😬   Second day I worse a knee length black dress with tassles down the front and Khaki Maryjanes   Third Day I was back in a suit (Female cut)   Fourth day I went full Pink to match the Fuschia VIP Lounge with an ode to Molly Ringwold Pretty in Pink (Meets Korean style...as I was told by some Korean Gallerist)   Final day I had a deep green long dress with a lime green belt and sneakers plus a Retro short crop sand brown duster jacket.   Anyway on that day, I was busy trying to coral people into a talk at an Italian Gallery by a famous Italian Street Artist when my colleagues suddenly called me into the gallery.   I was wondering what emergency could have happened this time...   ...instead the artist then proceeded to point at a new piece of work (Featuring two frogs in suits graffitied)...and then announced that this new work was inspired by me being brave enough to be me.   It was rather touching.☺️   As the final last days progress, I noticed many of the Gallerist started to refer to me in the feminine as well, with 'What's up girl?" or if I was in with my female colleagues "here come the girls".   I even got a bouquet from the Lead painter who bought all the 'girls' flowers🤗   Of course there were still some floor crew who preferred to address me as "Sir" even if I was blatantly in a dress but it did not feel purposeful.   What to me felt interesting was how things turned when I forced the issue with the dresses.   I don't think my female colleagues were expecting me to come in in dress.   There was all their pre-opening night chatter about what they were each going to wear for the event but I wasn't asked and felt somewhat excluded.🙄   That I chose to wear blouse and pants kept any issue with me under lid.   But you should have seen the reaction the next day when I swooped in (all natural) in my black dress.   To her credit the floor boss immediately greeted me with "And how are you today girl?"   Anyway I seem to have made a mark on the little event with my dressing. Apparently I am more than on point and they loved the colour combinations felt I brought a spark to the proceedings.   Inside, I just felt I was being myself really. I would have liked to have had a more female range voice but I had been working with these people before meeting them in person over the phone in male voice so was unsure if I wanted to go female voice and throw such a strong curve ball at them (make it an unnecessary other issue from the work)   But they must have had somewhat of a shock anyway when they first met me in person with my long hair and quite obvious female clothing.😁   You should have seen the looks when I walked the floor in dresses.   Hopefully this is a positive strike for us all? I like to think so. Small steps forward.                    
    • Ticket For Epic
      I'd hate to have to drop that from my vocabulary.  Don't get me wrong, I would to keep from offending anyone but it would be disappointing.   I heard this from someone in their mid 20's, so perhaps it's newish in the younger crowd or perhaps just their local area.  Thanks for your feedback.
    • Carolyn Marie
      I've never heard that "term of endearment" to be considered a slur, whether aimed towards a trans person or a cis-person..  I've never seen it used that way in anything I've read or heard.  But I suppose anything is possible.   Carolyn Marie
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