Surgeons in South Africa broke news to the world on Friday that they had performed the world’s very first successful penis transplant. Yes such thing exists and it’s been 3 months since it happened.
A very unfortunate story happened to a young man at the age of 21. He had his penis amputated three years ago after a failed circumcision at a traditional initiation ceremony. Is this not a man’s worst nightmare?
This man was fortunate enough to run into some top notch doctors. In a nine hour operation at the Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, he received his new penis from a deceased donor, whose family were thanked by doctors.
“We’ve proved that it can be done , we can give someone an organ that is just as good as the one that he had,” said Professor Frank Graewe, head of plastic reconstructive surgery at Stellenbosch University.
“It was a privilege to be part of this first successful penis transplant in the world.”
Doctors say the young man, whose identity has not been made public, has made a full fledged recovery since the operation on December 11th and has regained all reproductive and urinary functions successfully.
“Our goal was that he would be fully functional at two years and we are very surprised by his rapid recovery,” said Professor Andre van der Merwe, head of Stellenbosch’s urology division.
A little throwback history: Previously on the last episode of hospital life in 2006, a Chinese man had a penis transplant but his surgeons removed the organ after two weeks due to “a severe psychological problem of the recipient and his wife”.
Unfortunately, numerous South African teenage boys and young men have their penises amputated each year after failed circumcisions during rite-of-passage ceremonies.
“There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world,” Van der Merwe said in a brief statement.
African teenagers from various ethnic groups spend about a month in secluded bushy or mountainous regions as part of their initiation as a man.
The whole trial includes circumcision as well as lessons on masculine courage and discipline.
A researcher last year found 486 boys had died at the winter initiation schools between 2008 and 2013, with a major cause being complications such as infection after circumcision.
“For a young man of 18 or 19 years, the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic,” said Van der Merwe. We’re pretty sure this is OBVIOUS.
“He doesn’t necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men.”
Van der Merwe described the anonymous donor and his family as heroes of this tale.
“They saved the lives of many people because they donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas and then the penis,” he mentioned.
The South African team included three senior surgeons, transplant coordinators, anesthetists, theater nurses, a psychologist and an ethicist.
Surgeons from Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital had searched far and wide for a perfect donor as part of a pilot and case study to further the development of penis transplants in Africa.
Some techniques originated from the first facial transplant in France in 2005. They now plan to perform nine more similar surgical operations.
South Africa has long been a pioneer of transplant surgery.
Another history throwback: In 1967, Chris Barnard successfully performed the world’s very first heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. What a feat!