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‘I can take on the world now’ | Health Beat

Jameson “Jay” Dunn was born Amanda Dunn in 1984.

He loves all things Lego, toys and video games.

And he also likes motorcycles.

He rides a shiny black and white Yamaha Road Star 1700 with huge handlebars. He wears a leather vest and has an impressive array of tattoos on his arms, chest and upper body, including one of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

And once you meet him, he will almost certainly greet you with a giant bear hug.

“I’m a cuddler,” Jay said, getting off his bike after a recent sunny afternoon ride.

He and his wife, Jill, live in Kalamazoo, where Jay works in reprocessing operations. He sterilizes and cleans surgical instruments – surgeries such as top-notch sex-confirming surgery, which he knows a lot about.

Jay said he was one of three openly gay in high school.

“Growing up gay was tough for me and my best friend,” he said. “Many more of our people came much later in life.”

Jay identified as a lesbian for years before reaching out to the transgender community and eventually undergoing a top gender-affirming surgery at Spectrum Health in 2020.

“Everyone has a different story,” he said. “For me, it was a revelation of what’s missing.”

His mother died about eight years ago, prompting Jay to search for his soul. It was hard for his mother to accept that he was gay, but she and his sister loved him and accepted him when he came out.

“Mom always hated that I was a tomboy,” he said. “I liked boy things. I sat like a boy and walked like a boy. But along the way, I did receive tremendous love and support from my mother and sister. My wife Jill is also my greatest strength and supporter – she is my mainstay.”

But one day he said it just hit him.

“I’m trans,” he said.

‘The next step’

At the age of 35, Jay took the next step in his life to become transgender. He connected with Amie Hop, MD, a surgeon at the Spectrum Health Comprehensive Breast Clinic.

Top transgender surgery was the first step that would become a life-changing procedure for Jay.

dr. Hop said she remembers meeting Jay for the first time.

“He always came into the clinic with such a big smile,” she said. “He is a confident and strong person. And his positive attitude is contagious.”

Preparation for surgery included consultations with Dr. Hops and meeting specific clinical requirements.

The operation lasted only three hours. And recovery was relatively quick: one to two weeks for most patients.

“Most people can do their own care at home from the day after surgery,” said Dr. Hop. “And after two weeks, many are back to normal activities, with the exception of heavy lifting.”

Preparing for surgery involves many precautions: not smoking, for example, because nicotine hinders the healing process.

After surgery, Jay required drainage from his incisions for over a month, along with wearing a binder — a close-fitting top to compress the chest.

“I haven’t really seen myself for two weeks because of bandages,” he said. “But when I finally got to see it, even though the scars and incisions were pretty gnarly, I was really happy. It was just amazing to see myself with a flat chest.”

‘Perfect example of trust’

dr. Hop said these procedures are important for many reasons.

“Jay is a perfect example of the confidence people can gain when their bodies match their identity,” she said. “We often see patients who light up after surgery. Their energy is so positive.

“This can benefit so many elements of their lives, including their mental outlook, self-confidence, relationships with their family and friends, and their approach to their goals and overall health.”

To improve his life, Jay also underwent bariatric surgery a few months after top transgender surgery.

“I weighed over 300 pounds,” Jay said, looking back at old photos. “I suffered from eating and drinking too much.”

He would lose more than 125 pounds on his extended health journey, including lifestyle changes.

Jay said his outlook on life now is that bad things happen every day, but you just have to wake up every day and keep trying.

“Some days I get so frustrated that I cry,” he said. “But you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

Simply life changing

Jay recently enrolled in college and is considering starting a small business with his wife.

Double J’s Pallet Finds is the concept.

“We buy and sell pallets full of goods and sell them at flea markets,” he said. “My wife loves the pallets and I love buying and selling Lego.”

He has a “bat cave” full of parts and pieces. He plans to continue building and building until they find a space to start the business.

Comic books and motorcycles are his passion, and something he knows a lot about.

“I’ve been cycling all my life,” he said. “This one is nice and loud.”

His favorite comics are Batman and Deadpool.

“Darth is of course also one of my favorites,” he said. “I have a tattoo of him that I got on Star Wars Day.”

In regards to top transgender surgery, Jay describes the experience as simply life-changing.

“Dr. Hop and her team are the sweetest people I’ve had the chance to interact with,” he said. “My life only started when I met Dr. Hop. And now the rest of my life has begun at the age of 35.

“I can take on the world now,” he said. “The confidence I have is just amazing.”

Jay said he wished he could have gotten in touch with his feelings earlier in his life, but things weren’t as progressive in the world then as they are now.

“I couldn’t see my future because I couldn’t see myself in it,” he said. “And now I can.”

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