Head Trans­plants: We are al­most there!

Lesotho Times - - Scrutator -

OME ex­hil­a­rat­ing news has been emerg­ing from the world of sci­ence. When a group of sci­en­tists from stel­len­bosch Univer­sity an­nounced last De­cem­ber that they were about to con­duct the world’s first ever pe­nis trans­plant, i thought the world had gone bonkers. it was now com­ing to an end.

i could not pos­si­bly fathom how a man could have another’s man­hood re­set­tled unto him and sur­vive the galling ex­pe­ri­ence. Yes, the world has seen heart trans­plants, kid­ney trans­plants, liver trans­plants with a mea­sure of suc­cess. in fact these kinds of trans­plants have al­most be­come rou­tine. But a pe­nis trans­plant? oops!!! it’s Maa­parankoeeeee.

i did not think that was re­al­is­tic. i have been proved wrong.

Led by Dr An­dre van der Merwe of stel­len­bosch Univer­sity in Cape Town, a team of doc­tors per­formed the first suc­cess­ful pe­nis trans­plant in the world on a 21-year-old south African pa­tient who can­not be named for eth­i­cal rea­sons. Ap­par­ently, the 21-year-old is among the mul­ti­tudes of those great un­washed, who be­lieve in the stupid prac­tice called tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sion.

Un­der this prac­tice boys get parts of their man­hood re­moved with­out anes­thet­ics un­der the false pre­text that this marks their rite of pas­sage into be­com­ing real men.

Des­per­ate to re­gain his man­hood, the 21-year-old vol­un­teered for the del­i­cate process. Much is not known about the donor who do­nated his pe­nis. it is be­lieved it was a dy­ing man not scared to go into his grave with­out his man­hood, a taboo in most African coun­tries.

The long and short of it is that Dr Merwe’s team suc­cess­fully at­tached a new pe­nis to the young man in a 22-hour op­er­a­tion. The good news is that the young man’s girl­friend is now four months preg­nant, con­firm­ing the pe­nile trans­plant pro­ce­dure as an un­par­al­leled suc­cess.

Many of you broth­ers who have your orig­i­nal penises but have failed to im­preg­nate your wives or girl­friends must surely feel jeal­ous of this young crooner. But don’t be dis­cour­aged. Keep try­ing.

The sec­ond achieve­ment from the world of sci­ence has come from a team of doc­tors in Texas, which also hap­pens to be the home state of the world fa­mous war­lord, former US premier Ge­orge W. Bush.

The Texan doc­tors have done the world’s first skull and scalp trans­plant to help a man with a large head wound from cancer treat­ment.

MD An­der­son Cancer Cen­ter and Hous­ton Methodist Hos­pi­tal doc­tors did the op­er­a­tion on 22 May, 2015. The re­cip­i­ent of the skull and scalp trans­plant is Jim Boy­sen, a 55-yearold soft­ware de­vel­oper from Austin, Texas, who had been left with an open head wound from ra­di­a­tion treat­ments.

The ra­di­a­tion treat­ments for a rare cancer had left Boy­sen with an open wound in his head that would not heal.

In 2006, Boy­sen was di­ag­nosed with leiomyosar­coma, a rare cancer of the smooth mus­cle, on his scalp.

Af­ter chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion he was left with a large, deep wound on his head that in­cluded the scalp and the full thick­ness of his skull down to his brain. This had vir­tu­ally put Boy­sen on a knifeedge.

imag­ine walk­ing around with­out your skull and your brains ex­posed, float­ing all over you. it was a galling prospect un­til the Texan doc­tors got a new skull to trans­plant onto Boy­sen. Call it the beauty of sci­ence.

Please note that this trans­plant only in­volved the skull and scalp. That is the outer thick hard layer that pro­tects the head. it did not in­volve the brains and other mat­ter in­side the head.

The suc­cess of these two del­i­cate pro­ce­dures has given re­newed hope that sooner or later, we will soon have full head trans­plants in­volv­ing the re­set­tling of an en­tire head with all its brains and other in­ner mat­ter onto another per­son.

An Ital­ian neu­ro­sur­geon, Dr Ser­gio Canavero, has been busy work­ing on plans to per­form the world’s first hu­man head trans­plant.

Valery Spiri­donov, a Rus­sian whose spinal mus­cu­lar atro­phy dis­ease left him se­verely dis­abled, has vol­un­teered to un­dergo the first head trans­plant.

Un­der the pro­ce­dure, Dr Canave- ro will cut spiri­donov’s head and trans­plant it onto a healthy body to give the lat­ter a new lease of life. some doc­tors are scep­ti­cal and have dubbed Dr Canavero’s plans reck­less. But scru­ta­tor begs to dif­fer.

Af­ter the good news about the pe­nis and skull trans­plants, its high time head trans­plants were suc­cess­fully done. i have writ­ten about this be­fore and fol­low­ers of this column will know why i am des­per­ate for head trans­plants. This is the best sure way of en­sur­ing progress and de­vel­op­ment for Africa, our King­dom in­cluded.

My frus­tra­tions about the lack of progress and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in Africa are well doc­u­mented. i will never hide my ad­mi­ra­tion of coun­tries that have no nat­u­ral re­sources like Sin­ga­pore, South Korea, Ja­pan etc but that have none­the­less trans­formed into the world’s most pros­per­ous.

Africa’s is the rich­est con­ti­nent in terms of nat­u­ral re­sources yet its peo­ple re­main the poor­est. Take for in­stance the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo (DRC). It com­mands the sin­gle most ex­pan­sive min­eral re­source base of any coun­try in the world yet its peo­ple drink wa­ter from the sea.

We have one thing in com­mon with our broth­ers and sis­ters from Kin­shansa. We all squat over pit la­trines de­spite liv­ing in our re­spec­tive cap­i­tals.

We all know the prob­lem of Africa. it’s mainly poor lead­er­ship and poor pol­i­tics. Big men rule and poor pol­icy propo­si­tions have com­bined to keep the con­ti­nent as the peren­nial lag­gard.

As soon as the first head trans­plant suc­ceeds, Africans ought to rise and de­mand that their politi­cians go to get new heads from brainy peo­ple from other re­gions who have suc­cess­fully trans­formed their economies for the bet­ter­ment of their peo­ple. That’s the surest way of fos­ter­ing de­vel­op­ment on our blighted con­ti­nent. i at­tended the African Union (AU) sum­mit last week.

When i at­tend these gath­er­ings, I lose hope about the fu­ture of this con­ti­nent. in­stead of dis­cussing se­ri­ous is­sues to trans­form the con­ti­nent, the lead­ers got busy in as­sist­ing that ter­ror­ist scum­bag, Omar Al Bashir, evade a south African High Court de­ci­sion that he be ar­rested over his mas­sacres of 400 000 plus hap­less peo­ple in Dar­fur. south Africa is a sig­na­tory to the Rome Statute and was obliged to nab Al Bashir but opted to shake its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions.

am told Ja­cob Zuma, the host, danced and sang for his peers. They then feasted on lamb casse­role and the finest wines and the sum­mit closed with noth­ing of sub­stance dis­cussed to help this con­ti­nent. Can we con­tinue en­trust­ing the fu­ture of this con­ti­nent on these goofies? No. Head trans­plants are the best way for Africa. i am very se­ri­ous about this mat­ter. Let’s con­sider a few ex­am­ples.

Imag­ine Barack Obama, af­ter fin­ish­ing his term of of­fice and near­ing the end of his life, agree­ing to have his head cut and trans­planted onto Thabo Thakalekoala.

Thakalekoala then be­comes prime min­is­ter of Le­sotho. imag­ine how Le­sotho would im­me­di­ately com­mand se­ri­ous at­ten­tion by hav­ing the most hand­some leader in the world. some­thing that can­not be said if Thakalekoala be­came premier to­day. it’s an un­writ­ten rule of pol­i­tics that in­vestors go to coun­tries run by the most hand­some men and women. Another rea­son why Africa has also failed to gain trac­tion. Just imag­ine the se­ri­ous re­forms that would fol­low and the pros­per­ity that would rain on our blighted King­dom if Thakalekoala torso in­her­ited obama’s head. Barack obama is a brainy leader. He in­her­ited an America bankrupted by war­lord Bush and within a short space of six years has re­stored Un­cle sam to all his glory. Un­em­ploy­ment is at its low­est and America has taken off again.

imag­ine what would hap­pen if Ger­man chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s head was trans­planted or re­set­tled on Mme Keketso Rantso’s large torso. Maybe Le­sotho would then pro­duce its own ver­sion of Mercedes Benz or BMW. Re­mem­ber, Africa is the only con­ti­nent in the world which has not in­vented its own au­to­mo­bile.

magine Gen­eral Collin Powell’s head be­ing trans­planted onto our very own Tlali Kamoli. isn’t that the surest way of restor­ing the much wanted se­cu­rity sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho.

Head trans­plants must not be con­fined to the politi­cians.

Imag­ine Bill Gates’s head be­ing trans­planted onto En­gi­neer Mophato Monyake and Le­sotho then in­vent­ing its own Mi­crosoft? What a pity that Ap­ple’s steve Jobs died and went with his in­tel­li­gent brains into the grave.

if only head trans­plants had started then, his brains would have been des­per­ately needed here. steve Jobs had built Ap­ple from be­ing a min­now into a $300 bil­lion dol­lar com­pany. He died of pan­cre­atic cancer.

The ra­tio­nale be­hind head trans­plants is that the brain is the last part of the body to die and one is only cer­ti­fied dead when they are brain dead. Most dis­eases that kill peo­ple oc­cur from the neck down­wards leav­ing a chance of cut­ting off their heads for trans­plants.

Af­ter the suc­cesses with skull and pe­nis trans­plants, I am surely hope­ful of the head trans­plants. And to my less en­dowed sis­ters, we can also hope for vagi­nal trans­plants. sci­ence is surely trans­form­ing the world. That’s the only rea­son i re­main hope­ful about the fu­ture of Africa. And of course Le­sotho.


JAMES Boy­sen

BARACK obama

thabo thakalekoala

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