THE TOM MANNING INTERVIEW WITH BILLY HOUGH: PART I
MTV: Tonight on 60 Minutes. No. I'm just fucking with you. I'm Billy Hough here on MotherlodeTV.
Sigmund Freud said that all men are obsessed with their penises and that all women are jealous of men because they want penis. There are ten thousand pages on Google - and that's just a rough estimate - ranging from Psychology Today to the Encyclopedia Britannica to BuzzFeed about men and penis size.
An actual survey recently showed that 55% of men confessed to being happy with size of their penis while 45% of men are obsessed with making it bigger. All of us are spammed constantly with penis enlargement pills including my 74 year-old mother.
We also live in a time where celebrities are taking a page from the girls book and recently we've seen Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber accidentally leak dick pics on the Internet when they are in a career slump. It's amazing though that the paparazzi allowed both of them to fluff themselves before they were photographed.
It's in the culture to such and extent that men's obsession with their penises - which will surprise no women or mothers of boys - would literally, if an alien landed on Planet Earth it would take them about five minutes to be like, "Oh. Wow! What is this penis is is mine big enough."
It's everywhere and we talk about it all the time.
Dick pics have become ubiquitous in our culture. Most of my male friends between the ages of 15 and 75 have taken pictures of their penises. Most of my straight girlfriends and all of my gay boyfriends have all gotten dick pics both warranted and unwarrented.
So, we're gonna talk today about the penis.
We are also going to be talking to Mr. Thomas Manning. Thomas is someone who is here because he was the recipient of the first successful penis transplant in this country and the second successful penis transplant in the world - one of only three possible attempts at this time that this operation has been even attempted. Mr. Manning has been credited with actually spurring the doctor's toward the operation itself.
Now even though the operation is a unique and new phenomenon, Mr. Manning's condition isn't.
Hundreds of men every year have what is called a partial or a full penectomy due to different versions of cancer and at the moment we have almost 1400 soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost part or all of their genitals. So, Mr. Manning is not in a small club of men who have dealt with this but he is in an incredible rarefied group of people who actually come out the other side of it.
He's very brave.
He's promised to talk about anything.
And so today we are going to be dealing with this tempest in a teacock, I suppose.
TM: Hello. How are you doing?
MTV: I'm good. How are you?
TM: I am looking forward to this interview.
MTV: Thank you. I am glad that you are here.
I wanted to ask you a couple of questions. It says on the internet - so it must be true - that you are 64 and from Halifax.
TM: Yeah. That is pretty accurate.
MTV: Is that true? Where were you born?
MTV: So you've been a Boston Boy your whole life.
TM: Yeah. Boston. Wrentham and then the 'burbs.
MTV: I wanted to ask you actually, there's that famous old saying that when a boy is young and the first time he sees his father's penis, that there's this imprint in the brain that Daddy has the big one and I have the little one and that kind of builds the psychology between the son and the father or the father figure throughout their life. I was wondering. Can you remember as a kid, the first adult penis you saw?
TM: I think it was probably at the YMCA or the Boy's Club or something like that. You referred to my father. I'm not sure that I ever saw my father's penis because my mother and father divorced when I was pretty young so think I actually saw that.
MTV: You were actually in the 60s? Would have been 18 in 1970. So, were you into the counterculture?
TM: Not really. I was too busy working.
MTV: What did you do?
TM: I did a lot of everything. At that time I was working for the Red Sox on the ground crew.
MTV: What era did you get your ya-ya's out?
TM: Probably 78-79. In that era.
MTV: So let's talk about the old Thomas. The Thomas with the original penis. Were you a cocksmith? A lady's man? Were you a tough guy?
TM: I think I fooled around about as much as everybody else. I was more interested in what my mother would call trashy women. I wasn't looking for a nun if you know what I mean.
MTV: I do actually. I'm on that side of the tracks but just in a different store.
TM: I was the alter boy that was looking for the ultimate sinner. I'll put it that way. Every once in while I got lucky.
MTV: Remember this when we get to the part about the operation.
In terms of the way that you talk about the way people appear and that the way people are, welcome to show business because you are now an accidental celebrity. It's not something that you ever thought you would ever be, I mean on what television show were you just on?
TM: Dr. Oz a week ago.
MTV: And were you not amazed about how different people look in front of the camera versus behind the camera?
TM: Oh yeah. I was amazed because of just the set-up alone. It wasn't anything I expected. I thought was going to walk in through the front door. I had to go in through the back door where the loading dock was and everything looked so funny. The hallways were older. It was nothing that I expected it to be.
MTV: You never inspired to be in show business. You never auditioned for reality shows. You seem to be the only person in America right now not trying to get famous and look what happened. I wanted to actually ask you about that because in the story that was in the New York Times - and they are usually right on the money - she talked about the fact that….. let's just get the history together.
You actually had a devastating work accident and it was in the process of being in the hospital while they were dealing with the injuries from that accident that your cancer was discovered.
TM: You know what was the amazing part is I had this accident. They were scheduling me for surgery a few weeks later and they had not even discovered the cancer then. I was going to see this Dr. Feldman who was the urologist who was going to reconstruct the penis. It was crushed down here (pointing to his nether region). He took one look at it and says, "You've got cancer." I developed cancer three and a half weeks after I had already seen the surgeons. It wasn't even there. One doctor said "Everything looks good. Skin tissue's fine. We'll have no problem." Then I walk over to this other doctor and all of a sudden they are telling me I have cancer.
MTV: So it was kind of like a double whammy. The injury, then the cancer.
TM: Right away I thought I was dying.
MTV: This is 2012. So what did you actually think and when they first told you that they were going to have to perform a penectomy which is an operation where they remove part or all of the penis?
TM: They took everything but about this much (forms his finger and thumb.) About an inch.
First thing it hit me right in the chops. I blurted out to them, "Oh, god! You're gonna cut off my penis?" I'm gonna have wires sticking out of me and everything else. The first thing he told me was, "Okay. Calm down. We might not have to do any of that stuff. Let me just look at this and he did a virtual operation on the computers. A couple of days later I was in the operating room. Everything happened so fast. I remember them bringing me down to the operating room. There's an induction room outside before they wheel in. Everyone is coming over to me and asking me how I'm feeling.
I mean they are getting ready to cut off my penis. How am I supposed to feel? I mean I don’t feel like dancing. I’m a lousy dancer already and I know that this is not going to improve my dancing.
MTV: I can't imagine. This is 2012. None of these operations in terms of transplants have ever been tried so there wasn't any hope so that was basically the end result. You hoped that this would cure the cancer, stop the cancer, but that was the end of it.
TM: No there were no penis transplants at all. I got on the computer and then my brother is a computer wiz and he was on the computer all the time and he started telling me about what's going on with the medical science community was coming up with all this experimentation research - you know - the mouse with ear on his back, they were growing penises on the backs of mice.
MTV: I saw one of those in the sex shop.
TM: I’ll have to buy myself one those suckers. (Laughter.) Well one of the mice impregnated another and they knew they were on to something.
Very shortly after I had the amputation I started talking to Dr. Feldman on a regular basis and he said, "They are not doing these things, Tom."
MTV: According to the New York Times and according to Dr. Feldman - who was obviously the hero - you are first credited with suggesting the penis transplant. He was taken aback and in the ensuing couple of years there were two that were attempted and of course during this period of time there were a couple of face transplants and hand transplants. They were trying to do things that they weren't doing even five years ago.
Apparently, it failed - the first (attempt of a penis) operation - as they almost always do sadly enough. I think in China?
MTV: And I believe the second in South Africa which worked but it had never been tried in this country and he (Dr Feldman) credits you for spurring on the doctor's toward this belief that - a.) this is possible and b.) WHY NOT?
TM: What happened was that in China they actually did the operation and it wasn't there long enough. What happened was that him and the wife were freaking out about it - being with another man's penis (which she was) so he agreed to have them chop it off again. And they thought, "This guy needs help." He should never be released to the public again.
MTV: They didn't put that on Wikipedia.
TM: The South African operation, the word is is that it was a botched circumcision but I talked with Dr. Cetrulo, who is one of the two doctors that operated on me, and he told me that it was a successful operation and that he fathered a child.
MTV: Yes. I heard that. With the transplant penis. The South African case.
TM: The doctors that operated on me, the one's that did the hand transplants, and the face one - I want you to understand they were the same two doctors that worked on me. Dr Cerulo did the face transplant and the hands, he's performed hundreds of transplants - heart, lung, kidney, whatever - he's world famous and you asked me what happened leading up to the surgery.
They said that they were putting together a surgical team and I said, "Hey, Doc. Put me on that list!" I don't care if I'm number one or number five. I just want to be on the list."
His response to me was, "I don't know, Tom." because the amputation, there were a lot of complications. I was operated on five times. Five or six times in five weeks.
MTV: Is this the original surgery or the transplant?
TM: When they did the amputation there were all kinds of complications. Not being able to go to the john I had to be rushed back into the hospital.
What funny here guys, I find a little humor here.
Two weeks before (earlier) they amputate my penis. Two weeks later my testicles swelled and they blew up. This is a Groucho Marx script, right? Cut off the penis and chop off his balls. You just couldn't believe it. And I'm going to the hospital and I'm joking with them, "Who's gonna believe this?" I'm sitting in the Emergency Ward and they are admitting me and telling me they were operating on me in the morning. It's a Sunday. So Monday morning they operated on me and I'm telling the nurse, "Can you believe this?" Two weeks ago they chopped it off and now my things blow up. They looked like a freakin' basketball and I was was in my friends place - in this beautiful new bathroom where I went to visit him and they blew up. Blood was on the walls. It took him about six moths to call me back. I didn't think he wanted anything to do with me anymore.
MTV: That's insane. I have a really hard time not crossing my legs right now but that's what I'm thinking of because any guy can understand that. The idea that if I was told that I would be okay as long as you took my genitals. I mean I think that we can all relate to that. I've got a little more wisdom now than I did. My father died of Alzheimer's recently and my father was an intellectual so the truth is that it was his mind was the thing that would have crushed him. I'm a piano player and a singer and I was asking myself wel would you rather lose your ability to speak or your (accentuates his crotch area) and I kind of think as this point I'd let my dick go if I could keep my ability to speak. There are worse things in this world but I don't think that I would fuck with that before I started researching you and talking with you and my question is once you wrapped your head - and I'm sure you had other shit going on - probably got all kinds of medication and issues - and i'm sure the insurance companies were aghast as they always are - how did you actually cope? It had to be really depressing. Was there a psychological component to it after the fact?
TM: It happened so fast and I told anybody that I knew. I just got it out front. I've gone through physical problems and it was obvious I had physical problems. I could have exaggerated and told them I had something else wrong with me or whatever and it was easier to just tell them straight up it was okay for me and after about a month it didn't bother me at all. Do you you know what really smartened me up? When I was in that hospital and everyone around me was sicker than me. I had a young girl in her early 20s in the room next to me when they put me into rehab.
MTV: The thing that I find amazing is that you don't seem to have any self pity. There has not been a part of this story that you have focused on about how unlucky you were or about how this is unfair or whatever and you've got so many friends. Everybody I know who knows you says that you're a great guy - a great person - and even in the article, long before the penis transplant was even on the map, they said that you would tell people about the amputation and you even would allow people to joke about it and I guess my question is, How the fuck did you get there? I'd like to be that person. You know the kind of Yoda of whatever but did you feel sorry for yourself? What rebounded you? Was it really the illness of others? Did you say, "Fuck it! I'm 60. I'm healthy. My cancer is gone?"
TM: I think that if I was a young man - this is really tough because - just being an older man made it a lot easier for me to accept what was going on. The hospital is trying to put me in a position now so that when other patients come in cause a lot of young guys are gonna get it and younger guys would rather not have you amputate their penis. They would rather take alternative medicine and time is an enemy. If it gets in you lymph nodes you have two to seven months to live.
MTV: This is with the cancer?
TM: This is with the cancer.
MTV: Well let's get this message out there kids. I can agreed with it too. I'm 46. Like I've got it but it's like a car sitting in the yard. It's not what it was to me when I was 20. And as you say, there are these cancers that effect 100s of people every year. The penectomy is not really that rare and I think one of the reasons why we didn't know about it is because people who got it don't want to talk about it and I can understand that. A lot of people can understand why that if you had your penis amputated, you would not go out and share that information with the world. Why were you okay? Is that who you are? Is that how you were raised? Do you feel like you might help somebody? Why the decision to not just bullshit anybody and to absolutely play it straight?
TM: I kind of felt like Paul Revere. "They're cutting off my penis! They're cutting off my penis!"
TM: "Watch out! Here they come!"
MTV: "The British AREN'T coming!"
MTV: Thirty surgeons and seventy-five nurses and other health care workers. That's 105 people involved in this. That's miraculous.
TM: And we're not talking about the transplant yet. This is all pre-transplant. The transplant came four years down the road.
MTV: So three years after the original surgery and the brother who's online all the time, you were aware of these two virgin voyages of these penis transplants and you get a call from your doctor that says, "You know what? I think we can do this. We're going to try and you are going to be the first." What was your reaction?
TM: So this is what happened. Friday night, 9:00 o'clock, I get a call from Dr. Feldman, "Are you still interested in what we were talking about? Okay. I'll make the phone calls. I'll get it started. I think we have a transplant." So they start going through the protocol and I started being interviewed by everybody who's on the team individually to see if I'm the guy. They don't want to be influencing each other.
MTV: They say that you were emotionally vetted. That really there was so much involved in this. Did it occur to you that this was there first one? Did it occur to you that nobody had been through it. Were you scared of that? Were you excited?
TM: When I got that call that Friday night, fifteen minutes after we first started, we get this call. The transplant compliancy officer called as says, "He Tommy. I think we got a transplant." Then they tell me, "No more eating, drinking or anything like that until we call you." They just put me on hold. The next morning, Saturday morning - she calls and says, "We gotta go. " That was 8 o'clock. I had a friend of mine drive me to the hospital. Ten o'clock in the morning I was there. They whisk me right in. I'm on the sixth floor of the Blake Building at Mass General. They give me light preparation and 3:30 in the afternoon, they bring me downstairs to the operating room. They put me in the induction room and they leave me there until 6 o'clock. While I was in the induction room they give me the epidural in the back. They hook me up and I got three IV's. The waiting. Now you're waiting. I felt almost like it was a dream.
TM: They finally bring me in to the operating room and the next thing you know, they put my arms straight out like this (assumes the crucifixion position.) They put out my legs straight out like this. I got no clothes on. They put paper on me. They don't want to put me out too early because they are anticipating a long, long surgery. This went on for almost sixteen hours. It started the day before Mother's Day - that Saturday - at 6 o'clock at night and finished up at 10 AM on Sunday.
It was a long time - the prep - because the organ wasn't here. They had to bring it in from Maine.
It was a long extended surgery.
MTV: Let me just give a little information, The organ itself came from the New England Organ Bank which apparently deals with all these different transplants. This is something you may know or you may not but now that we are doing things like face transplants, penis transplants, hand transplants - those are things that are not normally covered by someone who thinks they are going to be an organ donor or one of their loved ones who's agreed to be an organ donor, so what people actually do - they said for your particular surgery - you need somebody who is the right age, who is the right skin tone - which makes total sense dealing with an external body part whose physiognomy, which I'm not sure means the same body type or whatever is right.
TM: The two primary things were blood type, and my blood type is B which is rare, so they had to match me up with his blood type and skin tone, the second most important thing. I don't think he was an older guy. I think he was a young guy. Okay.
TM: I think I scored.
MTV: So I also wanted to point out that the New England Organ Bank says that anyone who's been approached about this, the face, the penis and the hand, none of the family's have refused.
TM: Also, every person who donates their organs, his or her organs will go to eight people. You can actually make a difference. Within a 24 hour period of time, you've probably saved eight people. Nice thing to do on the way out.
MTV: And it is a nice thing to do on the way out.
So I wanted to ask you and we're talking about a dick - we obviously know that - so some of these questions run the gamut but the question is people talk all the time about phantom limb, you know, amputees who've lost their arm or lost their leg and will sometimes dream that it's there or they'll feel pain. Did you ever experience anything like that? Do you understand what those people are talking about?
TM: I can understand what they're talking about but I never felt pain from the amputation or the transplant. I know it sounds strange but it's hard for me to believe that I never felt any pain. I'm not one who takes a lot of medication. I've never requested any meds when I had it amputated. Of course they gave me something.
MTV: Anti-rejection medication and steroids.
TM: They gave me the epidural. They gave me some Oxycodone and some other medications. When talking about phantom pain, you know what helped me? They had a catheter in me both times, when I had the amputation and the transplant. I think having the catheter, because I didn't have to fight going to the john and all that. I never had any bad dreams about any of it either. A lot of people have dreams - nightmares, they aren't dreams they are nightmares - and I was one that never had those.
MTV: Well, Thomas is now in the hospital with 105 surgeons performing the first operation of it's kind in Massachusetts. When we come back, we are going to talk about the transplant itself and life since so join us in just a minute.