The team of doctors who carried out the operation have since been inundated with requests from men around the world who want to have the operation. News24 stated that nine other patients will receive penile transplants following the success of their first procedure. This procedure could eventually help men who have lost their penises to penile cancer or as a last-resort treatment for severe erectile dysfunction due to medication side effects.
While penis transplants are not an everyday occurrence, even stranger transplant news is floating over from Europe. An article titled “First human head transplant could happen in two years” on NewScience.com says that the first head transplant could be performed on humans by 2017. Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy suggested the idea last year, with the aim of extending the life of people whose nerves, muscles, and organs are shutting down due to diseases like cancer. “Canavero plans to announce the project at the annual conference of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) in Annapolis, Maryland, in June,” says NewScience.com. Canavero explains that in order for the transplant to take place the recipient’s head and the donor’s body are joined first by connecting tissues around the neck, linking blood vessels and the spinal cord. “To achieve this, Canavero intends to flush the area with a chemical called polyethylene glycol, and follow up with several hours of injections of the same stuff. Just like hot water makes dry spaghetti stick together, polyethylene glycol encourages the fat in cell membranes to mesh,” says NewScience.com. In order to prevent rejection and minimise movement, the donee is put into an induced coma for a period of three to four weeks. “When the recipient wakes up, Canavero predicts they would be able to move and feel their face and would speak with the same voice. He says that physiotherapy would enable the person to walk within a year. Several people have already volunteered to get a new body,” NewScience.com says. Test transplants on animals have been successful in the past, however Richard Borgens, director of the Center for Paralysis Research at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, says that the hardest part of the transplant will be connecting the spinal cord and further explains that there is no guarantee that the transplant would lead to complete motor functioning.
While these are extreme examples, organ donation should become an everyday topic of discussion. Prof. Andre van der Merwe, head of Stellenbosch University’s division of Urology, explained in The Saturday Star that the main problem is to find donors. “The heroes in all of this for me are the donor and his family. They saved the lives of many people because they donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas, and then the penis”, said Van Der Merwe.
In South Africa the ratio of two donors for every million people presents a crisis. Compare that figure to Spain, for instance, where the ratio is 33 donors per million people.
The story of the first successful penis transplant brings to light just how many ways you can help someone’s life by simply signing a piece of paper. By becoming an organ donor, you alone can save seven lives, not to mention improve someone’s standard of living by also donating body tissue such as the cornea, skin, heart valves, tendons and now your whole body.