"Only a handful of people know the full extent of his injuries." Andrew Zaleski is writing about "Ray," who in March 2018 became the fourth man to ever have a successful penis transplant. Zaleski explains in a piece for the MIT Technology Review that aside from a short New York Times interview given a month later, Ray hasn't publicly talked about his experience. He wanted to do so here, albeit anonymously, so other veterans like himself—one Pentagon estimate put the number of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who may have no option other than a penis transplant at 502—could be informed. A roadside bomb exploded beneath Ray in 2010, taking his legs, penis, scrotum, and part of his abdominal wall.
He now readily wears shorts, showing off his prosthetic legs, but aside from his parents, the rest of his injuries went unshared, even among the men he fought beside. Zaleski recounts the steps that were set in motion after a donor organ became available. Ray had to rush to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where plastic surgeon Richard Redett handled the extremely extensive 14-hour surgery, described by the South African urologist who handled the first successful transplant as "the most complex to date": the scrotum and thigh and abdomen tissue were transplanted in addition to the penis. Zaleski's detailed retelling explores the five years Redett spent practicing on cadavers; the arteries, veins, and nerves that are involved; the thorny questions surrounding the transplant; and how Ray is doing one year on. (Read the full piece.)