CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Thursday March 19, 2015 – Doctors in South Africa are appealing for donors to enable more men to undergo corrective surgery following the success of the world’s first penis transplant by surgeons from Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town.
The 21-year-old transplant recipient, who has not been named, lost all but a non-functioning 1cm stump of his penis three years ago following a bungled circumcision by an inept “traditional surgeon.”
After seeking medical help, he went on to receive the donated organ which had been harvested from a man who was declared brain dead.
Just five weeks after the transplant, the young man was able to resume a sexual relationship with his girlfriend.
According to Professor Frank Graewe, who took part in the nine-hour surgery: “He gets good quality erections, ejaculates and has frequent sex with his partner.”
The professor said the recipient had accepted the new organ as “his own,” adding that the skin tone of the donor penis was similar to that of the patient.
The operation, which took place in December last year, was led by Professor André van der Merwe and marked the culmination of his years of experimenting on cadavers to see which nerves, blood vessels and other elements had to be joined to guarantee full function.
The procedure was performed as part of a pilot study that had been in the making since 2010 to develop a penile transplant procedure that could be performed in a typical South African hospital.
The young man has made a rapid and full recovery, surprising surgeons who did not expect him to regain full functionality until about December 2016.
Provided an adequate amount of donors and funding become available, the procedure could benefit the estimated 250 men who lose their penises each year in a secret and brutal initiation ceremony conducted by the Xhosa tribe in South Africa.
During the month of June, which marks the start of a new harvest, thousands of boys are sent naked into remote areas to survive with little more than a blanket and meagre rations.
The ultimate test of the time-honoured rite of passage into manhood is the process of “ukwaluka,” the cutting of the penis foreskin that is performed by a tribal surgeon known as an “incibi.”
Infections and other complications resulting from this practice kill or maim scores of teenagers every year, despite repeated calls for the ritual to be stopped.
Although statistics are not available on the number of ritual circumcisions carried out in Southern and Eastern Africa, reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that it is as low as two percent in parts of South Africa and up to 35% percent in Kenya, according to a CNN report.
Nine more patients are currently scheduled to receive penile transplants.
Professor Van der Mewe said the success of the procedure meant it could eventually also be extended to men who have lost their penises from penile cancer or as a last resort treatment for severe erectile dysfunction due to the side effects from medication.