"He is certainly one of the happiest patients we have seen in our ward,” Seeker quotes Dr. Andre van der Merwe as saying. Van der Merwe and his surgical team at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, recently completed their second successful penile transplant—this time on a 40-year-old man who lost his penis 17 years ago during a botched circumcision ritual. The team performed the world's first penile transplant in 2014. The unnamed patient is doing well and should have complete sexual and urinary function within six months. It's said he got "quite emotional" when he saw his new penis, the International Business Times reports. "For these men the penis defines manhood and the loss of this organ causes tremendous emotional and psychological distress‚” Times Live quotes Dr. Amir Zarrabi as saying.
The world has seen only three penile transplants—one was performed last year in Boston, UPI notes—but there's a big need for the surgery in South Africa, where it's estimated there are up to 250 penile amputations every year due to traditional circumcision rituals. As an initiation rite, young men are circumcised with a spear tip then sent into the wilderness for weeks, during which time infection often sets in. The transplant procedure requires reconnecting tiny blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and the urethra and making sure blood can flow for erections. It's complicated by cost, a lack of donors, and the need to use medical tattooing to match skin tones. Doctors are trying to figure out how to reduce the cost while increasing donors. (A reality television executive lost his hand.)