This South African Man Just Received A Penis Transplant 17 Years After His Botched Circumcision


Kirsten Macnab |

By Kirsten Macnab

This South African man has a penis for the first time in 17 years.

A 40-year-old South African man just became the owner of a penis for the first time in nearly two decades, since he lost his johnson in a traditional circumcision gone wrong.

He is the recipient of the world’s third ever penis transplant, and the second performed at the Tygerberg Academic Hospital. The team of South African surgeons together with Stellenbosch University have made history by being the first medical centre in the world to complete a second life-changing penis transplant.

Prof André van der Merwe, Head of the Division of Urology at SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), expects the patient to gain full sexual and urinary function of his penis within six months of his transplant.

“The first time he saw his penis he was quite emotional, and he couldn’t believe that after 17 years he has a penis again,” Van der Merwe said. “He is certainly one of the happiest patients we have seen in our ward. He is doing remarkably well. There are no signs of rejection and all the reconnected structures seem to be healing well.”

Van der Merwe said that the patient should be able to have normal erections within about 3 months, and will gain full sensation around 6 months post-op.

“We expect him to have normal erections which will allow him to have normal sexual intercourse,” he said. “We also expect him to have normal sensation of the penis. The sensation comes from the nerves that we reconnected and they grow back at about a millimetre per day.”

The recipient of the new penis (who wishes to remain anonymous) lost his penis 17 years ago through a traditional circumcision.

The first attempted penis transplant was in China in 2006 but unfortunately it was a failure. In 2014, the first successful penis transplant happened here in South Africa and the recipient is said to now have two children of his own.

According to an article published by Stellenbosch University, penis mutilation is more common in South Africa than anywhere else in the world. This is because certain cultures have the tradition where the men have to undergo ritual circumcision as part of their passage to manhood, often in a non-sterile environment. Many men feel as if they have lost their masculinity when the circumcision leads to infection or mutilation of the penis.

“Patients describe a penis transplant as ‘receiving a new life’. For these men the penis defines manhood and the loss of this organ causes tremendous emotional and psychological distress,” says Dr Amir Zarrabi of the FMHS’s Division of Urology, who was a member of the transplant team. “I usually see cases of partial or total amputations in July and December – the period when traditional circumcisions are performed.”

Van der Merwe and his team are trying to make penis transplants more accessible to everyone. “At Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital we are committed to finding cost-effective solutions to help these men,” says Van der Merwe. Having improved on the first surgery they did almost three years ago, the team managed to drastically cut down the costs of the nine and a half hour surgery.

Van der Merwe explains that one of the main reasons that there are not more penis transplants is because there are just not enough donors. To be accepted, donors need to have a similar skin colour and blood type before they can be used for the transplant. Van der Merwe says, “It might be easier to donate organs that you cannot see, like a kidney, than something like a hand or a penis.”

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