Luis Canelos, the Peruvian teenager who lost his genitals in a gunshot accident when he was a child, is facing a complex operation.
South Florida doctors on Thursday mapped out how they will replace his penis using a combination of skin from his forearm and bone from a cadaver.
The surgery, tentatively scheduled for next month, will take two medical teams 24 hours at Holtz Children’s Hospital at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center. International Kids Fund Wonderfund, a Jackson Memorial Foundation-run charity that arranges for foreign children to get the medical attention they need, is helping to raise money for the $50,000 cost.
“I cannot overemphasize how complex the operation is,” said Dr. Rafael Gosalbez, a pediatric urologist at Miami Children’s Hospital, who will perform the surgery with two other doctors.
Luis’ genitals were destroyed by a rifle shot when he was 9. He was left with just a part of his right testicle.
To make a new penis, doctors will remove skin from Luis’ left forearm. Using a microscope, they will transfer nerves to enable Luis to experience sensation, said Dr. Christopher J. Salgado, associate professor of surgery and section chief of plastic surgery at the University of Miami. Doctors will then transfer skin from his thigh to his forearm. Luis will sport a cast to allow a smooth recovery.
Luis’ remaining testicle — which continued to grow after his accident — eliminates the need to treat him with hormones or testosterone, Salgado added.
This sort of operation is “not very common and there are not a lot of institutions that do this,” Salgado said. He said he performs six penile reconstruction surgeries a year.
Salgado first met Luis three years ago in Lima, Peru, and he felt compelled to help. Wonderfund arranged for Luis to receive treatment in Miami.
After the surgery, Luis will be monitored for two days. Through additional surgery in the future, Luis will eventually be able to father children. One option involves creating a support infrastructure using part of a fibular bone obtained from a cadaver. The other alternative is to insert an artificial pump, which poses the risk of infection.
“This is not only about making him physically whole, it’s about giving him back human dignity, self-esteem, a future and maybe even prevent suicide,” said María Luisa Chea, executive director of International Kids Fund Wonderfund. International Kids Fund Wonderfund is asking the public to donate to cover Luis’ operation by calling 877-453-5437 or visiting wonderfund.org.