If you haven’t read Part One yet, about chimpanzee kidneys and baboon livers, which kept patients alive for weeks or even months, check it out first. In Part Two, we’re diving into more dramatic transplants, including testes, skin, and hearts.
Goat Testicles in Kansas
John R. Brinkley was not a doctor. But that didn’t stop him from transplanting goat testicles into 34 patients. These weren’t back-alley operations; he was operating on some notable members of Kansas society–like a judge, an alderman, and the chancellor of a college. Brinkley advertised the goat testicles cured impotence (they do not), but he received early fame after the wife of one of his patients got pregnant after the procedure.
Brinkley would let his patients pick out the goat whose testicles they’d receive from a pen of what we have to assume were unwilling donors. You want to scoff that people believed in this insane medical procedure. Still, Brinkley was so famous that he ran twice for governor in Kansas. He made millions throughout his life (not just from transplant surgeries). Crippled by medical malpractice and wrongful death suits, Brinkley died in poverty.
Weirdly, a lot of the patients didn’t fare any worse from the testes transplants. Their bodies slowly absorbed the foreign tissue because the human body can withstand some exceptional stupidity from people.
During World War I, Dr. H.W.M Kendall in France used frog skin to repair shrapnel wounds. The skin from the frog’s inner thigh, in particular. He reasoned because the frog skin didn’t carry diseases that were dangerous to people and was hairless, it protected open wounds better than bandaging alone. In particular, shrapnel wounds were slow to heal; the scar tissue frequently re-opened because of friction and movement.
The wounds weren’t massive, open less than an inch. After all, it was the skin from a frog’s inner thigh—a small working area. Sometimes, the wound’s condition or location prevented it from healing properly (butt wounds weren’t ideal). Otherwise, the frog skin worked as a graft.
Chimpanzee Heart in Mississippi
In 1964, a cessation of brain activity didn’t indicate death. Heart transplants weren’t possible because medical professionals had to wait for the heart to stop beating before harvesting organs for transplant. Faced with a critical patient, the medical team at the University of Mississippi Medical Center opted for a “human equivalent” heart–from a chimpanzee.
Boyd Rush, a 68-year-old man, was on a respirator, in heart failure. The medical team in charge of his case, led by Dr. James Hardy, faced an ethical dilemma without a human heart readily available for transplant. They opted for a “sub-human” heart and gave Rush a chimpanzee organ. It beat for 90 minutes but was too small to move blood through a human body, and Rush passed away.
The criticism Hardy faced focused on the murder of animals to harvest their organs to the antiquated idea that the heart was the source of the soul. Rush could have awoken with the personality of a chimpanzee.