5 Freakish Effects an Organ Transplant Can Have On You

Oh, your body accepted the organ fine? You’re not out of the woods yet
5 Freakish Effects an Organ Transplant Can Have On You

Cutting yourself open to plop a replacement organ into your failing body sounds like a horror story when you think about it, but you’ll probably just be scared of the transplant failing. You know that the surgery, like all surgery, comes with a risk of death, and you also risk your body rejecting the foreign organ. If you can get past those hurdles, you’ve won, and now, you’ve got nothing to worry about. 

Or so you’d think. Maybe, however, you’ll be one of the unlucky few for whom the biggest horror is still to come. 

Maybe You’ll Get Accused of Your Donor’s Crimes

The following story happened in 2004 in Alaska, a place that — purely by virtue of the temperature — is a great setting for crime stories. Detectives were investigating a sexual assault, and as a routine part of this, they compared the DNA profile from a semen sample with their criminal DNA database. Usually, there’s no match. This time, there was. Apparently, they had their man. 

Just one problem. The man had a pretty good alibi: He’d been in prison on the night of the crime. If he hadn’t been, they’d surely have had enough evidence to put the cuffs on him no matter what he claimed, but now, they’d have to figure out what really happened. 


Matthew Ansley/Unsplash

“Maybe the assault happened in that very prison?” 
“Haha, no, then police wouldn’t bother investigating it.” 

Here’s one obvious theory: The man had an identical twin. But no, that wasn’t it. He did have a brother, and the detectives found that this brother was a likely suspect — but that didn’t explain the DNA match, as it was exact match, not a matter of familial DNA. 

The brother was indeed the culprit. The brother had also previously donated bone marrow to the prisoner, and thanks to that transplant, the prisoner’s blood contained his brother’s DNA as well as his own. Other marrow transplants completely change the recipient’s blood DNA into the donor’s. Even the recipient’s semen can change totally to the donor’s DNA, which mean the reverse of the Alaska case might happen and the donor might be on the hook for where the recipient unlawfully squirts his fluids. 

Moreover, the question of whose DNA is really in a guy’s semen can get even more complicated when we try transplanting something other than marrow…

You Might Father Your Donor’s Children

We have good news for all men who get injured horribly while slicing salami naked. We now have the science to totally transplant a penis and scrotum from a donor to someone who wants new ones. Consider the case of an Afghanistan vet, who got his genitals (and legs) clear blown off by an IED. He received a transplant, and a year later, he was peeing standing up and experiencing the sort of pleasurable erections that gave him a reason for getting up in the morning. 

Total Penis, Scrotum, and Lower Abdominal Wall Transplantation

New England Journal of Medicine

Detailed photos are available, but we’re just going to share this clinical diagram with you.

Such a transplant prompts a dilemma, though. If this man, upon regaining full sexual function, were to put his genitals to their full use and impregnate someone, the offspring would not be his, genetically. Genetically, they would the offspring of the donor. This wasn’t an issue in the case we mentioned earlier, of the bone marrow recipient. The DNA in that guy’s semen changed, but he’d also had a vasectomy. A mere marrow transplant couldn’t make him produce another man’s sperm, but a testicle transplant could. 

With the case of our Afghanistan vet, the doctors neatly dodged the issue. When harvesting organs from the donor, they went with “dissecting the testes off of the skin and leaving them in-situ,” transplanting a scrotum with nothing inside it. So, he’s not fathering anyone’s kids anytime soon, but he’s still orgasming all over the place and reporting “substantial improvements in pleasure scores.”


One of the more outlandish medical cases on the show Scrubs involved a patient who died and donated organs to three other patients. In the hurry to get the transplants done, the hospital skipped one optional step: testing the organs for rabies. As a result, all three recipients caught incurable rabies and died. This was, by the way, the show’s best episode, even better than that one that other people say is the best

Scrubs My Lunch


It also has a solid B story, about Todd being horny.

The crazy part, though, was that this wasn’t an outlandish fictional case at all. It was based on a real case, from just a couple years earlier. An Arkansas man died in 2004, his family agreed to donate his organs and a hospital harvested his lungs, kidneys and liver. Four patients received organs from the man, and three of them caught rabies and died. The fourth, the liver recipient, happened to have been vaccinated against rabies

Scrubs took some artistic license with what makes sense in such a situation, but the most dramatic part of the story, where they transplanted a rabid kidney, was true to life. As important as kidneys are, the operations usually aren’t urgent, so this bad transplant was truly avoidable. 

Inheriting Their Allergies

A 42-year-old woman received a lung transplant, and things seemed to be going fine. Seven months later, when she was at a support meeting for people who’ve had transplants, she ate a peanut butter cookie. Her lips swelled up, she broke out in hives and her heart rate shot up to 122. As they rushed her to the emergency room, doctors observed what looked like a clear allergic reaction. Only, she’d never been allergic to peanuts before the transplant.

peanut butter cookies

Alexander Grey/Unsplash

Nor had she been allergic to cookies in general.

The issue was that the lung donor had been allergic to peanuts, and so, the recipient would now have to live with this peanut allergy for some time. Of course, a peanut allergy isn’t such a severe handicap, compared with the condition that necessitated the transplant. Still, it’s eerie. Mainly because the 12-year-old whose lungs now breathe for her didn’t merely have a peanut allergy. He died from anaphylactic shock after ingesting some peanuts. 

Inheriting Their Tragedies

Around Christmas 1994, Terry Cottle’s mother-in-law moved in with him. A few months later, he put a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.

His wife Cheryl agreed to let the hospital take his organs, and his heart went to a recipient 24 years his senior, Georgia man Sonny Graham. Sonny took to the new heart just fine (he claimed having a new young organ did wonders for his sex drive), and he wrote to his donor’s family, through the agency that had matched him to his heart. He now got to meet the widow Cheryl. Cheryl went on to remarry, and she invited Sonny to walk her down the aisle. 

walking bride down the aisle

Aaron Bond/Unsplash

“It’s like I’m your father!”
“Cool. I’ll call you Daddy then.”

That sounds like a nice, wholesome relationship. Then Sonny and Cheryl had an affair. Sonny had a wife of his own, and they’d been married for 38 years, but he soon divorced her to be with Cheryl, who separated from her new husband. Six months later, Cheryl left Sonny, and married yet another man. Then she divorced that guy and married Sonny after all. Three years after that, Sonny put a gun to his throat and killed himself. 

He ended his life so similarly to how Terry had that you naturally have to wonder if that transplanted heart carried some sort of a suicide gene with it (or, worse, a suicide curse). No one has been able to prove or disprove that. But there is another possible explanation, which is its own kind of horror story.

heart model

Tanya Pro/Unsplash

You know what’s scarier than inexplicable death? Explicable death. 

Two of Cheryl’s husbands shot themselves, according to official reports. However, no one witnessed either shooting, and Cheryl gave conflicting accounts of how she discovered Terry’s body. Sonny died by shotgun blast, and while it’s not impossible to shoot your throat with a shotgun, it’s hardly convenient. That other husband we mentioned, whom Cheryl married between Terry and Sonny? He said he once had to wrestle his gun out of Cheryl’s hands, and said she falsely told people he was going to shoot himself. A fourth husband said she threatened to shoot him, and he got a court order against her.

So, maybe the common factor in these men’s death by gunshot was the heart they shared. Or maybe it was the woman they shared, who contributed to their deaths in a manner that we would be legally advised not to frame as an explicit accusation. Either way, when you get an organ, beware. It can come with some deadly attachments. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

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