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US Veteran Who Lost Most Of Lower Body In Explosion Gets Penis Transplant

Jake Massey

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US Veteran Who Lost Most Of Lower Body In Explosion Gets Penis Transplant

Featured Image Credit: PA

A US military veteran who lost most of his lower half in an explosion said getting a penis transplant was one of the best decisions he ever made.

In 2010 the Navy corpsman, known only as Ray, was tending to soldiers injured in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan when he stepped on a roadside bomb.

It took a team of 25 surgeons to carry out the 14-hour operation. Credit: Cover Images
It took a team of 25 surgeons to carry out the 14-hour operation. Credit: Cover Images

Ray lost both his legs, his genitals and part of his abdominal wall in the blast and was subsequently given prosthetic legs.

However, it wasn't until 2018 that Ray - who is in his 30s - had his penis replaced in the fifth ever penis transplant operation, which took place at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Speaking publicly for the time since he had the extremely rare operation, Ray said the transplant gave him hope when he had none.

According to MIT Technology Review, he said: "This surgery was a way for me to overcome that little subconscious voice or whatever it was that would always keep me feeling different from everyone else.

"It was one of those injuries that really stresses you out and you think, 'Why would I keep going?' I guess I always just kept this real hope that there's an answer out there.

"This was actually something that could fix me. I could go back to being normal again. I don't regret it. It was one of the best decisions I ever made."

The complex procedure involved grafting the penis and scrotum from a brain-dead donor onto Ray, and it took 25 surgeons 14 hours to stitch all of the required nerves, arteries, veins and blood vessels, which were finer than human hairs.

The testes, however, were not transplanted so as to avoid the ethical questions that may arise from Ray having the donor's sperm.

Dr Redett (left) said it was a huge moment of relief when colour returned to the penis. Credit: Cover Images
Dr Redett (left) said it was a huge moment of relief when colour returned to the penis. Credit: Cover Images

The operation was the most advanced of its kind and made Ray only the fourth person to receive a penis transplant - with the first ever attempt proving unsuccessful in China in 2006.

Ray said he is 'close' to regaining full sensation in his new manhood and, importantly, he can now urinate while standing up and get erections.

Dr Richard Redett, the plastic surgeon who led the team, said they practised attaching and reattaching veins and arteries endlessly, but it wasn't until they saw colour return to the penis that they knew the operation had been successful.

He said: "For him, it was almost either you do this transplant, or you live the rest of your life with your defect.

"We felt very confident we could do it, but we had never done it. If you're not anxious for something like that, you're not thinking hard enough.

"You know how to do it, but until that last blood vessel is hooked up and you release the clamps and blood flows through it - I mean, that's a huge sigh of relief."

Topics: Interesting, US News, Health

Jake Massey
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