Feeling Complete After Transformative Surgery

Gender-affirming surgery patient Lucas Wilhite.

April 16, 2019

Lucas Wilhite can't quite explain it, but he has always known he was different.

"It's been a knowledge I've always had," he says. "I wasn't born with the right body."

Assigned female at birth, Lucas is now 36 and finally completing his physical transition. His gender-affirming surgery is clinically known as metoidioplasty. The procedure involves a team of specialists working together to create a penis in a single surgery. It is the final surgical step for Lucas and the first such procedure to be performed at The University of Kansas Health System.

"The staff have been amazing," Lucas says. "Every doctor I've met with and everyone else through the health system were equally supportive. I couldn’t have asked for better care."

One sargent’s story

Staff Sargent Christopher Norris Sr. and his wife, Lauren Norris, of Fort Riley, Kansas, share their experience and 4-year-old son CJ Norris’ success. 

What made you initially consider evaluating your child for autism?

Lauren: I just felt like he should have been saying more at about 18 months old. It’s not good to compare your children, but I just felt mom’s intuition. He should have been saying more. 
 
Christopher: He was constantly using nonverbal cues. He would grab us by the hand to show us rather than talking. We go to a peer group around military installation (MI) and would notice his language wasn’t developing at the same level as other children. 
 
Lauren: His speech wasn’t very clear. You know your kids; you know your intuition. At his primary care doctor, we pushed to get him evaluated because of his age. We wanted to have him evaluated rather than not do anything. 

What was your experience with the autism developmental evaluation military clinic?

Lauren: We were referred to a specialist in Wyandotte County. They confirmed we could get on a wait list, but CJ needed to be 3 years old to be evaluated. The University of Kansas Health System gave us the fastest time in getting him in, which was awesome.

Christopher: We had a really good briefing before we went to the clinic to understand what was happening and what the doctor was trying to get from the appointment. Dr. Catherine Smith worked with the military program on MI. She had worked on installation before, and had worked with military families. She helped us get the early diagnosis, the right diagnosis, and access to the right treatment plan.

What advice do you have for other military families or any parent?

Lauren: Don’t be in denial. If you feel your child could be delayed, I highly encourage getting your child screened. At best, all will be normal. Or something is there. We caught it early and can get the treatment he needs to be on the right step by school age.

Christopher: For me, as a service member and father, I’m not around all the time, and my wife is noticing these things. I would miss certain things, but my wife was worried about his development and speech. Service members work hard, train hard and put their life on the line – use the military health benefits to take care of your kids.

What’s next for your son and his care plan?

Lauren: Our all-day appointment was 3 to 4 hours. We had the diagnosis, and the very next week there were phone calls for applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. The therapist comes to our house 4 days a week for 2 hours. CJ is now developing much better. We’re able to cut his hair with scissors without him crying. If we didn’t tell people, they wouldn’t know he had autism.

Christopher: Now he won’t stop talking! We really appreciate Dr. Smith and her ability to get CJ the resources he needs. Our biggest fear was CJ not having a normal life. Now he is moving light years ahead because of early diagnosis and treatment.

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