In a world full of heart-wrenching stories that leave us with little to no faith in humanity, I come bearing a singular shred of hope. A U.S war veteran (who has chosen to remain anonymous) had his genitalia blown off during battle. Up until now, an injury like that would signify the end of the road for most people. But PEOPLE reports this particular veteran's case can serve as a beacon of hope for any future people in his position, as he has officially received the world's first penis and scrotum transplant from surgeons at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
For those of you more medically minded people wondering how surgeons might execute such a groundbreaking procedure, allow me to explain. The surgery took place on Mar. 26, 2018 and took 14 hours to complete. PEOPLE reports that nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons came together to transplant the penis and scrotum along with part of the abdominal wall from a deceased donor to the injured veteran. While an official announcement reported the surgeons were comfortable transplanting skin, muscles and tendons, nerves, blood vessels and bones, they held off on transplanting the donor's testicles.
The Baltimore Sun explains the reasoning behind the surgeons' decision was ethical as they were worried about the genetic material from the testicles of the deceased donor potentially being passed down to the patient's children. “We just felt there were too many unanswered ethical questions with that kind of transplant,” Dr. Damon Cooney, with Johns Hopkins Medicine, explained, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Needless to say, an intricate and groundbreaking surgery like this one isn't something the surgeons went into blindly. W. P. Andrew Lee, Chairman of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins University, told PEOPLE the surgical team carried out numerous “surgical rehearsals” before the actual procedure took place. The entire thing was estimated to have cost about $400,000, according to the Washington Post, but the majority of that bill was reportedly picked up by the hospital.
While we regularly hear about injuries like leg amputations and PTSD associated with war, Lee stated that this particular one is an “unspoken injury of war.” The good news is that surgeries like this could potentially completely restore penile function. "We are optimistic that he will regain near-normal urinary and sexual functions following full recovery,” he assured.
That being said, the fact that they did not transplant his testicles did leave him unable to reproduce. But that isn't stopping him from being grateful for his surgery. In a statement to PEOPLE he shared:
It’s a real mind-boggling injury to suffer; it is not an easy one to accept. When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal … [with] a level of confidence as well. Confidence … like finally I’m okay now.
The donor's family also released a statement to PEOPLE regarding their sentiments on the matter:
We are all very proud that our loved one was able to help a young man that served this country. We are so thankful to say that our loved one would be proud and honored to know he provided such a special gift to you. We hope you can return to better health very soon and we continue to wish you a speedy recovery.
Congrats to the veteran and here's to hoping for a seamless recovery.
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