Johannesburg, South Africa — A 36-year-old man has undergone the world’s first successful head transplant. The ground-breaking operation took a team of surgeons nineteen hours to complete and has allowed the patient to be cancer-free.
Paul Horner, who was diagnosed with bone cancer five years ago, was on the verge of death when he was approved for the controversial and possibly deadly operation.
Doctor Tom Downey, who was part of the South African team who carried out the operation, told CNN he is thrilled about the results.
“It’s a massive breakthrough,” Downey said. “We’ve proved that it can be done – we can give someone a brand new body that is just as good, or better, than their previous one. The success of this operation leads to infinite possibilities.”
Surgeons at Charlotte Maxexe Johannesburg Academic Hospital inJohannesburg carried out the operation in February but waited until they could confirm it was successful before they made any public statement.
Downey spoke to reporters about the complexity behind the first ever head transplant.
“This procedure is another excellent example of how medical research, technical know-how and patient-centered care can be combined in the quest to relieve human suffering.”
The operation was led by Professor Myron Danus and took place on February 10th of this year.
“Our goal is for Horner to be fully functional in two years and so far we are very pleased by his rapid recovery,” said Danus. “Before the operation, Horner’s body was riddled with cancer and he had less than a month to live. We were fortunate enough to find a donor body; a 21-year-old man who has been brain dead from a serious car accident that happened in 2012. The boys body worked just fine, but his brain was not functioning whatsoever, and there was absolutely no chance of recovery.” Danus continued, “We received approval from the young man’s parents to use their sons body to do the operation. They were extremely happy their son could save a life even in the vegetated state that he was in.”
Doctors say Horner has made an 85% recovery; walking, talking and doing the normal things a healthy individual does.
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The Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, nicknamed Joburg Gen is an accredited general hospital in Parktown, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. It has 1,088 beds. The hospital’s professional and support staff exceeds 4,000 people.
Even though Horner lives in the United States, the first-of-its-kind operation had to be done overseas in a location where the medical guidelines are not as strict.