Man born without penis given £50k BIONIC WILLY
A man born without a penis just got a new bionic one
Andrew Wardle, right, with his partner Fedra Fabian, left. Courtesy @tomespr
- Because of a rare birth defect, Andrew Wardle was born with his bladder outside his body — and without a .
- Last Friday, Wardle underwent the last in a series of that gave him a totally new penis, the Daily Mail reported.
- The new organ is made from some of his own tissue and an implant that will help him have erections.After recovering, he will be able to have sex for the first time in his life.
- INSIDER spoke to Wardle (and a doctor who's researched penile reconstruction) to learn more about the surgery.
- Warning: this article contains language describing a suicide attempt and a graphic post-surgery photo.
Andrew Wardle is popularly known as the man born without a penis.
Because of a rare birth defect, Wardle was born with his bladder outside his body and with no penis. And for the past few years, he's undergone a series of surgeries to recreate the missing organ using some of his own tissues and an implant.
He's been in the news plenty of times before. In recent years, media outlets, , and even a TLC documentary have recounted his fascinating story. He made headlines again this Tuesday in a report published by the Daily Mail after undergoing his final penis reconstruction surgery. Now, his brand-new "bionic" organ (as the Daily Mail described it) will work just like the real thing — erections and all. It will allow Wardle, 44, to have sex for the first time in his life.
But Wardle's transformation isn't just about sex. His birth defect caused serious health complications throughout his life, and left him so depressed that he twice attempted to end his own life, the Daily Mail reported. For Wardle, the completion of his penis marks the closure of a long and painful medical ordeal.
INSIDER spoke with Wardle to learn more about the surgery.
Wardle's rare birth defect caused long-term health problems.
Wardle was born with bladder exstrophy, in which the bladder forms on the outside of the body according to the US National Organization for Rare Disorders. Other nearby body parts, like the urethra, genitals, intestine, bones, and muscles, can be affected too.
It's estimated to occur in just 1 in 50,000 live births, the American Urological Association explains, and there's no clear cause behind it — although family history of the defect does increase a child's chance of being born with it.
"There's different variations of it, so you [can be] born with bits of penis or with none, and I had the worst variation, and it was none," Wardle said on a January 2019 appearance on the
Throughout Wardle's childhood doctors had to perform a number of surgeries on his urinary tract, leading to kidney problems and infections, the Daily Mail reported.
Altogether, Wardle told INSIDER that he has had "way over 100" surgeries from birth to present day.
As he reached puberty, the physical complications gave way to psychological pain.
"I started getting depressed ... I hid it through comedy, having a laugh, messing around, like a typical schoolboy," he told the Daily Mail. "I couldn't see the light. Everyone around me was planning to get a job, get married and have kids and I could see no future."
As a teenager, he attempted to take his own life, and later, he left school and began using drugs. Around Christmas 2011 — at the "most depressed" point in his life, Wardle attempted suicide a second time.
"My younger self would never have believed I could make it this far. I didn't really plan on being around past my 30s and that was not down to me," he told INSIDER. "I felt it was because I was living in a society that would not accept me."
But in 2012, a new doctor gave him hope.
Wardle explained to the Daily Mail that his primary care doctor, who knew about his suicide attempts and mental health issues, referred him to a new urologist in London in 2012.
"Until then everybody had said: 'I can't do anything," Wardle recalled to the Daily Mail. "But [this doctor] said: 'I can build you a new bladder and my friend can build you a penis.' It took me the whole journey home to understand what he meant. I thought: 'I've been in every hospital in the country and they've never said this before.'"
He had several surgeries to reconstruct his bladder and construct a penis.
Tissue was taken from Wardle's left arm to craft his new penis. Courtesy @tomespr
Over the last five years, Wardle told INSIDER he's had seven surgeries to reconstruct his bladder and — more famously — give him a functioning penis.
In November 2015, a surgeon performed a phalloplasty, building Wardle a new penis using skin, muscles, and nerves from his left arm and a vein from his right leg, the Daily Mail reported. Last December, in a separate surgery, doctors installed an implant in Wardle's new penis that will allow him to have erections on demand.
The final surgery, which took place last Friday, put the finishing touches on the implant.
The implant, as the Daily Mail explained, works like this: The surgeon installed a reservoir of saline in Wardle's abdomen, a hollow cylinder in the center of his new penis, and a "pump and release valve" in his scrotum. Operating this valve will make the saline to flow into the empty cylinder, making the penis hard.
"I operate it by a button in my scrotum that I press to inflate and deflate it," Wardle told INSIDER. "It works exactly like a normal one — the only difference is where a normal one fills with blood, mine fills with a synthetic version."
Penis reconstruction has gotten a lot more sophisticated since its early days.
One major goal of penile reconstruction is to give patients the ability to pee.
Penile reconstruction was first pioneered in 1936, Dr. Shane Morrison, a resident in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Washington, told INSIDER. (He explained that he hasn't performed these types of surgeries independently but has a research background in the subject — he co-authored published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.)
In the early days, penises were constructed using skin and fat from the abdominal wall, he explained. But they left a lot to be desired.
"There was no sensation, no urethra for urination, and no ability to make it erect," Morrison told INSIDER. "Now, with the advent of microsurgical techniques and tools, we have become more sophisticated in our ability to create a penis."
Today, Morrison said, the most common way to construct a new penis is to use skin and fat from the forearm that comes with its own blood supply and nerves. The arm tissue is used to form a urethra and penis, and transferred to the appropriate location. Surgeons then connect the arteries, veins, and nerves in the arm tissue to the arteries, veins, and nerves in the groin or leg. This ensures the new penis can both "survive and feel," Morrison said.
"After the penis begins to have some feeling then penile implants can be potentially placed to allow for erections," Morrison said. "The literature says 30 to 40% of penile reconstructions have an implant placed." (A paper in the Journal of Sexual Medicine also notes that implants can have some complications, including infection and dysfunction.)
These surgeries can help many different types of patients, from transgender people having gender-affirming surgery to those who've lost a penis due to trauma and men like Wardle who are born without one. No matter the reason, the desired outcome is the same: An aesthetically pleasing penis that can pee and have penetrative sex. Morrison said research shows that, generally, more than 60% of reconstructions give patients the ability to pee. And depending on the technique used, 30 to 60% of people with a reconstructed penis can have penetrative sex, he added.
Wardle is now preparing to have sex for the first time in his life.
Wardle, left, and his partner Fedra, right, on "This Morning" in 2019.
In the wake of his final procedure, Wardle said that he is recovering well.
"I'm feeling OK and very positive about life after the last operation," he told INSIDER. "I'm in a lot of pain [and] discomfort but that should fade over the coming weeks. But apart from that, all is well."
And he's now preparing to have sex for the first time with his partner Fedra Fabian, the Daily Mail reported.
"I've spent 44 years without a penis and I've coped with not having sex for all that time," he told the Daily Mail. "It will take me a while to get in the swing of things."
But he stressed that having a functional penis is about far more than just the ability to engage in intercourse.
"People seem to get hung up on the sexual aspect of the operation and it's very annoying indeed," he told INSIDER. "With this condition, you tend to get very bad kidney infections and ... it can be so painful. I've spent months in [the] hospital and lost countless jobs because I became so ill. Also, the financial cost of this condition has run into the tens of thousands of pounds. So I'll be just happy to start being able to plan my life again and move forward. I understand sex is a very important part of a relationship, so I'm not devaluing it. It's just not the be all and end all for me."
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.
Video: Man With Bionic Penis Must Endure Two-Week Erection to Finally Use It | This Morning
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