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Doctors In Boston Perform World's Third Penis Transplant


A Massachusetts man has received a penis transplant. The surgery is still experimental, but it raises hope for those who have had amputations either because of cancer or from traumas, including returning veterans. From member station WGBH, Craig LeMoult has the story.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: Speaking from his hospital bed, Thomas Manning said there's an obvious reason why he wanted to have this surgery.

THOMAS MANNING: First because they amputated my penis. That's the first answer. And if you think about it, if you really think about how much sense that makes, that's the only answer.

LEMOULT: The amputation happened four years ago after Manning found out he had a rare penile cancer. Since then, he kept asking his doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital if a transplant might be possible. Earlier this month, he got his wish. The 64-year-old became the first patient in the U.S. to receive a penis transplant.

MANNING: What they're giving you is a chance. Some of these operations won't take, and some of them will. But at least you take a chance.

LEMOULT: There have been two similar surgeries - one in South Africa and one in China. The patient in the Chinese surgery wound up rejecting the transplant. But surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital say they felt confident they could do it because of their success with a complicated hand transplant four years ago. Lead surgeon Dr. Dicken Ko says they had three goals with the surgery.

DICKEN KO: Reconstruct a natural-appearing external genitalia - number two, to establish urinary function and continuity of the urinary tract - and three, potentially achieving sexual function.

LEMOULT: So far Manning is doing well and getting to those goals, and he should be released from the hospital within the week. Manning's other lead surgeon, Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, says this kind of transplant could be especially valuable for veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with these kinds of injuries.

CURTIS CETRULO: These patients are very despond, and they often consider taking their own lives. They don't have very much hope for intimacy going forward in their life. And they've already sacrificed so much in service of their country.

LEMOULT: He says although it's still early, they're cautiously optimistic about Manning's outcome. Manning is unmarried, and he says he's not sure yet what impact the surgery will have on relationships.

MANNING: Maybe my confidence level will go up. Maybe I'll look at myself a little differently. Maybe - I don't know yet. That's going to take some time.

LEMOULT: In the meantime, Manning says he's happy he could play a role in helping doctors understand how to treat injured veterans and others facing this kind of significant loss. For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.