Wounded veteran gets first DOD-approved penis transplant

The MIT Technology Review has a surprisingly fascinating piece about a US Navy veteran who lost his everything below the waist when he stopped on a landmine during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan in 2010. Over the years, he'd gotten used to his shiny new prosthetic legs, and even came to display them proudly for the everyone to see. But the loss of his penis was a shame that haunted him for eight years — until he became the fourth-known person in the world to undergo a fully functioning penis transplant, and the first military veteran to do so.

A total of 1,367 American infantrymen sustained significant genital injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2013. Such hidden wounds of war represent a relatively new problem. Bombs from below used to be a death sentence, but better body armor and modern casualty care ensure that more wounded soldiers survive—and more of them with devastating genital-urinary trauma. In a report last year, military urologists wrote that groin injuries have increased "to a level never before reported in the history of war."

The US Department of Defense recognized the problem as long ago as 2008, when it set up an institute to research various reconstructive transplants. Eventually, the TOUGH Project—Trauma Outcomes and Urogenital Health—placed a figure on it: among infantrymen with genital urinary injuries from Iraq and Afghanistan, 502 were injured so severely that a penis transplant might be their only recourse.

Quantifying the number of such injuries is easy. Outlining the psychological toll they take on guys in their 20s and 30s is much harder.

Meet the wounded veteran who got a penis transplant [Andrew Zaleski / MIT Technology Review]

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