In recent years, human organ/tissue transplants have come leaps and bounds. From life-saving heart transplants, to absolutely unbelievable face transplants, our ever-evolving medical industry appears to be entering the sci-fi realm.
One group of people can find great solitude in these life-changing transplants are the men and women who return from fighting wars with severe and devastating injuries.
We have all seen the horrific and poignant images of male soldiers who have lost their legs from the waist down and felt great sorrow. However, I can honestly never say that I’ve never even considered what damage had been done to the genitals.
Maybe that’s because it’s not as visually clear as the loss of an arm or a leg, or maybe is simply out of respect, but genitourinary injuries are often not spoken of.
Sex is an important part of any loving relationship, and if an injury has caused a male soldier to lose his penis, then this can have extremely negative effects on his mentality and can create a difficult strain between his partner.
It’s not selfish or inconsiderate, it’s simply human nature.
However, one group of doctors who are optimistic that they can bring some hope back into the bedroom of these soldiers are the surgeons at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who will soon be undertaking their first attempt at a penis transplant.
If the first trials of penis transplants are successful, then the surgeons believe the recipients will regain urinary function, sensation and even the ability to have sex.
It also means that these men may even be able to father children and start families with their loved ones.
This is how life changing this surgery will be – it will literally mean that new life can be welcomed into this world.
Although there are hopes that anyone who needs this transplant will soon be able to be put on the list, for now, the transplants will be offered only to those members of the military who have suffered injuries to their penis and/or testicles whilst serving in combat.
The chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at John Hopkins, W.P Andrew Lee, recently told The NY Times;
“These genitourinary injuries are not things we hear about or read about very often. I think one would agree it is as devastating as anything that our wounded warriors suffer, for a young man to come home in his early 20s with the pelvic area completely destroyed.”
In reality, The Times reports that 1,367 men in military service sustained injuries to their genitals between 2001 and 2013.
These types of injuries are very often caused by IEDs. A 2010 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggested that 12% of all war injuries involved genitourinary trauma.
And as I mentioned before, the loss isn’t just physical – it can have serious psychological, social and emotional issues as well. Richard J. Redett, the director of pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins, also told The Times;
“To be missing the penis and parts of the scrotum is devastating. These guys have given everything they have.”
In fact, the University of Southern California School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families, have discovered that, “there is a higher prevalence of depression and PTSD in those with GU trauma, as well as a slower recovery process, greater distress and more suicidal behavior than those without these types of injuries.”
Jamie P. Levine, an associate professor and chief of microsurgery at the Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Centre, revealed to Mic, just how significant the penis is for men;
“Identity is a significant issue for many individuals who have sustained an injury that resulted in lost genitals, especially for younger individuals.”
It’s important to note that this type of surgery has been attempted before – twice – and only one of those transplants was deemed successful.
The transplant takes around 12 hours from start to finish, and involves stitching the patient’s nerves and arteries to those in the new penis. However, the patient will then have to take medication for the rest of their lives to prevent the body from rejecting the new organ… although, this is a very small price to pay.
Johns Hopkins are apparently well in the process of evaluating the first group of troops who’ll be receiving the surgery – the only thing left to do now is find a donor.
This news can change the lives of so many individuals. Fireman, police officers, ordinary members of the public – anyone can fall victim to these sorts of injuries, as well as transgender men looking for realignment surgery.
We’re keeping our fingers crossed that these surgeries are successful. The future really is now.