A life ruined by faulty surgeries: Call for solidarity with trans woman Zehra Hayel

Zehra Hayel Kendirci’s life was turned upside down following a faulty gender affirmation operation in May 2014 at Avcılar Medicana Hospital. Hayel had to go through seven additional surgeries, her attorney Zehra Şahin who continues her legal struggle against the doctor calls for solidarity: “We want to make Zehra Hayel’s voice heard”. 

Warning: This article includes distressing details which some readers may find traumatising. 

Source: “A life ruined by faulty surgeries: Call for solidarity with trans woman Zehra Hayel” (“Hatalı ameliyatlarla hayatı altüst oldu: Trans kadın Zehra Hayel için dayanışma çağrısı”), sendika.org, September 19, 2019, http://sendika63.org/2019/09/hatali-ameliyatlarla-hayati-altust-oldu-trans-kadin-zehra-hayel-icin-dayanisma-cagrisi-561921/

During an examination a month after the first surgery in the private office of her doctor, Hayel was told by her doctor that a fistula occurred while cleaning the vagina and that it should be stitched. This led to seven more surgeries in 2014, 2015, and 2017.

These operations deteriorated Zehra Hayel’s health, and she sought additional medical help, getting an appointment in Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty in July 2017. In her examination, it was revealed that no live tissue was left on her vaginal region and therefore she can not be treated anymore. 

Regarding the first examination after the surgery, Hayel’s attorney Zehra Şahin stated:

“That day the doctor examined Zehra Hayel under anesthesia. During the exam, Hayel was accompanied by her friends who say she screamed after the doctor’s intervention. They say that the doctor did not answer when they asked what happened, and sent Zehra Hayel home after she regained consciousness, without giving any explanation.”

According to Attorney Şahin Zehra Hayel’s fever went up and started to feel ill after she returned home: “My client thought that her fever and discomfort were after effects of the anesthesia. Yet her discomfort kept worsening. When she noticed that faeces started to come out of her vagina she called and informed the doctor. The doctor asked her to come the next day and that she will be informed. My client spent the day with her friends caring for her.” Hayel’s attorney states that her client went through an hour long operation the next day after which her doctor told her that a fistule formed while cleaning her vagine during the exam. When she came back she noticed that her stitching came undone and again faeces came out of her vagina.

Şahin says that Hayel tried to protect her health with pads and patient diapers: “My client tried to deal with the situation on her own means, but when it deteriorated she had another surgery done by the same doctor on July 2, 2014 at Avcılar Medicana Hospital. She stayed for a week at the hospital and paid 1000 TL for the operation”.  

Hayel’s condition did not improve after the surgery and she went through two more surgeries on 2015 by the same doctor at Bahçelievler Yaşar Hospital. Şahin suggests that Hayel became exasperated as she confronted more physical and psychological difficulties: 

“Each time my client was hopeful and sought help from her doctor, and she had 3 surgeries with 3 months intervals in 2017. The doctor told her that s/he closed up her vagina to prevent the faeces discharge.” Şahin states that the doctor decided to have the vagina closure operation on his/her own and did not inform Hayel of consequences. 

On her examination at Cerrahpaşa Training Hospital on July 12, 2017, Hayel was told that she can not be treated as there is no live tissue left on her vaginal region. She was also told that her vagina needs to be reopened by her doctor. Her doctor, in turn, asked for 25 thousand liras for the operation, which she could not pay for. 

Attorney Şahin underlines the fact that her client has a report dated December 2017, suggesting that she is 58% disabled. Hayel currently continues to have examinations at Cerrahpaşa Training Hospital every 15 days, and in June Hayel was told that her condition is not improving.

Şahin states that the doctor accepted their mistake and returned 15 thousand liras of the first surgery to stop Hayel from carrying the matter to social media, promising that they will solve the problem and do another surgery: 

“When we met the doctor, they returned the 15 thousand liras cost of the original operation in 2014, based on a protocol we have drawn out. Why would the doctor give back the money if they did not think it was their fault? My client has serious health problems. Her vagina is closed and her intestines are outside of her body.” 

Şahin also suggests that the doctor have written conflicting remarks on two epicrisis reports, accepting that they carried out the gender change operation on first and suggesting the opposite in the second: “The reports are not dated, they obscure the facts. Many of the operations were not reflected on the reports, my client was not given any documents regarding the procedures she underwent.” Hayel became diabetic after the surgeries yet “her doctor tried to make it look like she always had diabetes and that her current situation is a complication related to diabetes.” 

Attorney Şahin is currently struggling to make Zehra Hayel’s voice heard: “After all these surgeries, my client is facing serious health issues. She has to use certain medical materials every month. Her insurance only covers a part of these costs. My client found out that her condition would not improve in June 2019. We have filed a criminal complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor. My client is having a hard time trying to continue her life. We want her voice to be heard. We need solidarity. She should not feel alone.”

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