The man who underwent the first penis transplant in the United States after having lost it to cancer is reportedly well on his way to recovery, according to surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Even though Thomas Manning, 64, is still in his early stages of recovery, physicians are "cautiously optimistic" about the transplant that has only been performed twice around the world. The attempt in China failed, whereas the attempt in South Africa in 2014 was considered a success, the New York Times reported.
“Today, I begin a new chapter filled with personal hope and hope for others who have suffered genital injuries,” Thomas Manning, of Halifax, Massachusetts, said in a press statement.
The goal was to give Manning a natural genitalia appearance, help him regain urinary function, and restore his sexual ability following his amputation, doctors said in a press release.
Even though the procedure is still considered experimental, they hope to soon make the procedure available to veterans and soldiers with severe damage to their genitals and urinary tracts, who the New York Times reported to have exceptionally high suicide rates.
“They’re 18- to 20-year-old guys, and they feel they have no hope of intimacy or a sexual life,” Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, a leading member of the transplant team, said in an interview with the New York Times.
According to The New York Times, Manning had all but an inch of his penis amputated, leaving him wary of sexual contact, and unable to urinate standing up.
“I couldn’t have a relationship with anybody," Manning told The Times. "You can’t tell a woman, ‘I had a penis amputation.’”
He was first diagnosed with penile cancer in 2012, when he was brought to the hospital following a work-related accident, he said in a statement.
According to The Times, he was not romantically involved at the time of the amputation, and was uncomfortable pursuing a relationship with a woman following the amputation.
Manning said he didn't want to hide his amputation. Many of his friends knew, The Times reported, and jokes criticizing his masculinity only made him stronger.
Finally, he was approached with the suggestion of a transplant, after Dr. Cetrulo and his partner, Dr. Dicken Ko, researched and practiced the procedure on cadavers and dead donors for more than three and a half years.
Alexandra Glazer, president of the New England Organ Bank, pointed out that, unlike internal organs, they have a different procedure for donations of parts that are visible, like a hand, face, or penis, she said in a press conference.
"We would approach the family for specific authorization for the specific graft," Glazer said, even if the person is a registered organ donor.
When a donor, who's family wishes to keep him unnamed, with the correct blood type and skin tone came forward, Manning became the first American man to undergo a penis transplant earlier this month in a 15-hour operation that involved 13 surgeons, and more than 30 other caregivers including anesthesiologists, nurses and organ bank staff.
Though Dr. Cetrulo estimated the cost of the procedure between $50,000 and $75,000, the New York Times reported that the doctors donated their time while the hospital covered any extra costs.
Even though The New York Times reported Manning suffered one major complication since the surgery, doctors expect he will be able to urinate normally starting from within a few weeks, and recover sexual function within months.
The hospital's penile transplant FAQ even stated that "it is a possibility that reproductive function may be restored in the future," even though testes were not a part of the procedure.
The next goal is to minimize the need for Manning's anti-rejection medicine, that can cause kidney damage or cancer if used too often.
But, for now, Manning has been declared cancer-free for four years, and, despite the need for weekly follow up appointments, is well on his way to recovery.