Andrew Wardle finally has the member he never had. The 44-year-old, who was born without a penis, received a so-called “bionic penis” that will let him have sex for the first time in his life.
Wardle was born with what is known as bladder exstrophy, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a “rare birth defect in which the bladder develops outside the fetus.” Affecting just 1 in every 20 million people, the condition may also produce defects in the genitals, pelvic bones, intestines, and reproductive organs.
For Wardle, the condition meant he was born with no penis and just one testicle.
From childhood, Wardle spent his life in and out of surgery rooms to repair his bladder and internal organs, according to the Daily Mail. Eventually, his bladder was fitted with a tube that helped collect his urine in a urostomy bag — and though it made it easier for Wardle to pass water, his overall condition still left him suffering from depression. In 2012, Wardle attempted suicide.
“My GP knew about my depression and suicide attempts,” Wardle told the Daily Mail. “She told me: ‘You can’t live like this.'”
Wardle met with Dan Wood, a consulting urologist at UCLH in London, who explained he could build Wardle a new bladder. Wood’s colleague, David Ralph — a fellow urologist and specialist in genital reconstruction — said he could build him a penis.
Doctors removed Wardle’s urostomy bag and replaced it with a Mitrofanoff. According to Columbia University’s Department of Urology, a Mitrofanoff is “a small channel that connects the bladder to the outside of the body. A catheter is used to empty urine from the bladder through the channel, and a one way flap valve is used to maintain urine control.”
“I think that saved my life more than my penis,” Wardle said. “The urostomy was the worst thing. I didn’t feel human, but I thought I was stuck with it.”
Building Wardle’s Penis
In November of 2015, Ralph conducted the first of many operations on Wardle to construct his penis, which in the end cost about $65,000 to create, according to the Daily Mail.
Ralph used skin and muscles from Wardle’s left arm and a vein from his right leg to build the new member. The skin and muscle got wrapped around the vein like a tube, and then the whole thing was manipulated into the general shape of a penis and surgically attached to Wardle’s body. The new penis also contains an implant that can be pumped full of saline fluid to produce an erection.
Wardle received the last of his surgeries on Friday, which included inflating the penile implant. Now, he’ll have to live with an erection for 10 days before doctors can deflate it.
As for sex, he’ll have to wait six weeks before he’s cleared to engage in intercourse with his long-term girlfriend, Fedra Fabian — though he doesn’t seem to mind the wait. “I’m very excited that I can move on now,” he said. “But I think having sex for the first time is more of a big deal for everyone else than it is for me. I’ve spent 44 years without a penis, and I’ve coped with not having sex for all that time. It will take me a while to get in the swing of things.”
He added that “of course” he’s looking forward to learning all about sex for the very first time — but he’s more thrilled about the bigger things that ahead.
“For me, [sex is] not the be-all-and-end-all,” he said. “It’s a by-product of the operation. It will enable me to feel part of society.”