The John Bobbitt Story
Even though the Bobbitt story happened in June 1993, I still get asked about it every few weeks.
As most of you remember, John Bobbitt was that famous case where his wife decided she was upset with him and cut off his penis (at the base) and then threw it out of her car window into a field. I achieved significant fame, because I was the plastic surgeon who reattached it with microsurgery. Yes, it did work and he did a porn film, less than a year afterwards which amply demonstrated its functionality on multiple occasions during the movie!!
Some more of the story. No I was not on call when the incident occurred. I finished my plastic surgery training at UVA in Charlottesville, VA in 1990 and it include a fellowship in microvascular surgery. I went back to Toronto Canada and worked there from 1990-92. I then returned to the USA and established my practice in 1992. The incident took place in Manassas, VA. I was not on call but at that time there were very few, if any plastic surgeons who worked at that hospital, who had the necessary microsurgery skills.
I got called in the very early morning hours, I think it was around 4 am or so but I can’t remember for sure. At that time, they had not found his missing part. I asked them if I should both coming down to the hospital if they did not have his missing part. They assured me that it would be found by the time I arrived. True to their word, the fire department (I believe) found it in the field, where she told them that she threw it. Thank goodness no hungry birds or critters were around!
I met john that first time as he was about to be put to sleep.
I took 9 hours to do the surgery. I had done a lot of microsurgery but I had never done a penis. I used a tourniquet on the very bottom of his penis and it was not until I took the tourniquet off that I realized I had been successful. I kept him in ICU for several days to monitor the revascularized penis since they can sometimes clot. Also because initially he did not have a lawyer and I realized he needed to hire a lawyer.
This case caught the world by storm. As my father explained to me, at that time, the world had gotten bored of the Serbian-Croatian war and nothing special was happening. The world was totally captivated with this wild story. His case was not the first man to have his penis cut off. What I did learn from my reading was that the most common reason for a man’s penis to be cut off, is because he is psychotic or schizophrenic and thinks God tells to them to do it. They usually don’t realize what they have for days and by that time, it is too late to reattach. The second most common reason is a homosexual conflict. It is much less common in this country for a wife to do this to her husband, although, she claimed rape but that was not validated in court. Almost every day the Washington Post had an article about John Bobbitt. He was mentioned in Time magazine at least 5 times. An Internet search showed thousands on articles written about him all around the world, in countless languages. I was contacted by newspapers, radio stations and magazines from around the world, including Japan, Canada, England, Israel, Europe etc. His story made countless rounds on late night TV.
He was a very cooperative patient and made a fast recovery.I believe it was less than a year later that he made his first (of two) porn films. I had lost touch with him by this point. His movie did demonstrated that it worked, “good as new”. His story got even more colorful and include his becoming some sort of minister in Vegas and then working at a legal brothel in Nevada.
I am always asked how it affected my practice. The answer is that it did not really have too much of an impact. I did not advertise that I had done his surgery, though I did have an appearance on the Geraldo show and Jenny Jones show. Everyone knew John’s name but most people did not take the extra trouble to learn who was the surgeon Especially since it was not exactly something that they worried about for themselves and thus kept my name and phone number on their fridge door. Also it was not as though people when they wanted a tummy tuck or a breast augmentation, said that I will go to that plastic surgeon, who put Bobbitt’s penis back on.