Yet she is also learning on the job. For example, until she can find a psychologist to help ease women’s post-surgical adjustment, she has started requiring patients to read books about intimacy and sex.
With each of her 11 patients — from Delaware, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania by way of Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone and Sudan, — Dr. Percec has adjusted her method.
When her first patient, Ms. Sillah, remained in pain two weeks post-surgery, Dr. Percec began prescribing women an ointment with lidocaine. When another patient struggled with a dressing, Dr. Percec began sewing on gauze with dissolving stitches. Two patients needed additional surgery, one because her clitoris partially adhered again, possibly because her work uniform included snug pants, Dr. Percec said.
Later, Dr. Percec began grafting fat into the labia, theorizing it would aid healing and add fullness to depleted tissue. She typically takes fat cells from patients’ bellies, but Ms. Gbaya’s muscled body had so little fat that it was taken from the thigh.
Initially, Ms. Gbaya was enthusiastic about the results. She soon returned to the gym and experienced new feelings, she said, as if the clitoris were saying,“Hey, I’m here.” She began a new romance, and said that during sex “I do notice the sensation.”
But eventually, she said, scar tissue formed back over the clitoris. She recently visited Dr. T. Wayne Bloodworth, a cosmetic and gynecologic surgeon who last year opened a nonprofit center in Johns Creek, Ga., that provides free clitoral reconstruction.
Dr. Bloodworth, who trained with Dr. Foldès, said he excised Ms. Gbaya’s re-accumulated scar tissue, cut the suspensory ligament and anchored the clitoris using tiny stitches, steps he considers necessary to keep it from retracting. Ms. Gbaya says she is now “doing great.”