Sometimes the only way to deal with a surreal situation is to pretend it's normal. So that's what we're doing — discussing Andrew Wardle's bionic penis nonchalantly, in the way we might talk about the heatwave, or the football.

He's giving me the latest update: eight days ago he had a tube put inside his penis that will enable it to be inflated so he can, eventually, make love.

Two devices, like pumps, were also placed in his left testicle that will serve to "inflate" and "deflate" it when required, the Daily Mail reports.

During the operation (for which, mercifully, Andrew was asleep) his surgeon put it to the test. His penis remains in this rigid, uncomfortable and embarrassing state and will do so until one day next week, when Andrew will return to hospital to have it "deflated".


It is hopefully the last of three highly intricate operations to create what nature cruelly denied Andrew at birth. For he is not a transsexual undergoing gender realignment surgery. The affable 44-year-old was born without this fundamental body part due to an incredibly rare defect that meant his bladder formed on the outside of his body.

It made his life pretty much intolerable. It blighted his childhood, robbed him of a sex life and fatherhood, and at times dragged him down into drug abuse and depression so deep, he attempted suicide twice.

So you can understand his joy when, six years ago, he learned there was an operation that could build him a functioning, sensitive penis using other parts of his body.

In 2015, surgeons performed a phalloplasty, where a penis was constructed using parts of Andrew's left arm and right leg, moulded into the right shape then attached to his body. Though nearly complete, there's still some discomfort to be endured before Andrew's journey is over. To stretch the skin properly, he has to remain in this state for a few more painful days. "I've barely ventured outside my front door for the last eight days as I'm terrified people might get the wrong idea," he says with a wry smile. Luckily, his sense of humour remains very much intact.

"People don't look at you and think 'oh, he's just had an operation to create a new penis.' They'd think I was a dirty so-and-so."

Worse, Andrew is in constant pain and understandably can't wait to have it deflated.

"The doctors are going to show me how to work the pumps when I go back to hospital next week," he says. "I'll have to fiddle about with it. Hopefully I'll get the hang of it."

He'll spend six weeks inflating and deflating it daily, squeezing the pumps implanted into his testicle, and then he'll be all set to go.


"It's all plumbed in," he says. "At the end of the six weeks, it'll be ready to operate.

"There are nerves in the penis so I will have proper feeling there. There would be no point if there wasn't, would there?"

If all goes to plan, he'll be able to make love for the first time in his life, with his girlfriend, Fedra, the pretty young woman with whom he has been in a relationship for six years. (Andrew's predicament has not stopped him attracting many girlfriends over the years, but we'll come to that.)

Right now, he's in too much discomfort to think too much about sex. "It's constant," he says. "A constant ache. I wake up at 3am and don't know what to do with myself."

And before anyone asks, no, he wasn't tempted to go "supersize". Average is just fine, thanks.

"When I first saw it in this state, I thought, 'oh my goodness'. I had the option of having one tube or two put inside the penis which would determine its size, and I'm so pleased I opted for just the one."

Although born without a penis, Andrew did have testicles, so his surgeons were able to wire up his bionic penis to them so it will function just like a real one. He should be able to produce sperm and, theoretically, be able to have children.

"The doctors have offered to test my fertility," he says, "but I don't want it. That would be too much. I want to take things one step at a time."

There is no date set, no countdown, to the day he puts his new penis to the test. "It'll happen when it feels right," he says. "There's no hurry.

"I've gone all my life without sex —you can't miss something you've never had. So although I'm looking forward to it, it's not something I'm desperate to do."

While sex, as Andrew says, is not everything, feeling like a normal man will mean the world to him.

For while his story has inevitably prompted unkind sniggers from many quarters, for years Andrew's life was utterly awful, always one step away from tragedy.

Being a man without a penis has defined his life. His teenage, single mother put him up for adoption at birth. Whether his defect, or her own circumstances, made her choose this option isn't clear.

With his acute health issues, however, no adoptive families were forthcoming, meaning he spent his childhood in foster care.

He also spent much of it in and out of hospital suffering from bladder infections. He estimates he has had 100 bladder-related operations.

While surgeons were able to place his bladder inside his body, they had to build a special tube, opening in his abdomen and into a bag, for him to be able to urinate.

At school, everyone knew Andrew was different, but he says he was highly adept at getting changed — "like a burlesque dancer" — without anyone seeing what was wrong.

But there was teasing and bullying, and when he left school he drifted from one dead-end job to another.

He went travelling to Greece and Spain and worked in holiday camps but found life increasingly hard to cope with and blotted out the pain with illegal drugs.

He says, though, that he did have sexual feelings. "A lot of it's in your head, isn't it? I learned quickly to control these feelings, though" The irony of his situation, however, was that there was never a shortage of willing girlfriends.

His apparent reluctance, and ultimately flat refusal, to sleep with them, only made him more of a catch — a gentleman, set apart from the crowd. Then there was challenge that appealed to some women. Because he didn't seem to want them, they wanted him all the more.

But for Andrew, it was torture: "There is never a right time to tell a girl you haven't got a penis," he explains. "If I met a girl in a bar and said, 'Hello, I'm Andrew and I haven't got a penis,' it wouldn't sound right would it?" he says with another flash of his wry humour.

"The longer I left it, the more difficult it got to tell them. It was awful. I turned to drugs to deal with it and blamed the drugs on my inability to do it."

Reactions when he did confess were mixed. One girl he'd been dating for a few months seemed sympathetic and said she'd have a chat with her mum and get some advice. Her mum told her to get rid of him. Another girl simply punched him in the face.

Twice Andrew, of Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, attempted suicide. In 2012 his GP, aware of his history, told him: "You can't live like this." He referred him to Dan Wood, a consultant urologist at University College Hospital in London.

Andrew says his doctors are absolute 'geniuses'. Photo / 123rf
Andrew says his doctors are absolute 'geniuses'. Photo / 123rf

"I went to see him and he said: 'I can build you a new bladder and my friend can build you a penis'."

At last, there was hope. It was around this time Andrew met Fedra. He was a supervisor at Butlin's in Skegness; she had recently arrived from Budapest and had a job at the holiday camp doing face-painting.

While Andrew was now filled with hope that he might one day become "normal", it was still very much theoretical. So he used the same dodging, ducking and evasion tactics he'd always employed with girls when it became apparent that he and Fedra might become an item.

"At no point did Andrew say to me, 'My name is Andrew and I don't have a penis'," says Fedra, with a smile.

Indeed, while Fedra suspected something was wrong, she did not find out exactly what until she read an interview he gave to a newspaper about his plans to have the op.

"It was very difficult for me," admits Fedra, 28, who now works in luxury retail. "I felt very confused. There was a point when we were going to split up. But I loved him and we got through it.

"Once I knew, I became included, whereas before I had been excluded. We were in it together. I think in lots of relationships, couples have problems and use sex to paper over the problems. Andrew and I don't have that, so it's made us stronger in a way — we have to confront our problems. But to me the most important thing is not the sex, it's about getting Andrew healthy.

"Besides, we have a sexual dimension to our relationship. There are other ways to please a woman, of course."

Andrew is now something of an expert in penis construction surgery. He explains, in fascinating detail, how it came about.

Under the expert care of urologist Mr Wood, a new bladder was constructed. He also had a procedure which means he now has just a small tube poking through his abdomen to which a catheter is attached regularly to remove urine, rather than having a bag attached all the time.

Although a distinct improvement, Andrew's new penis can't be used for peeing yet.

Mr Wood referred Andrew to his colleague David Ralph, a fellow urologist and specialist in genital reconstruction. "I'm not the first person to have a penis created," says Andrew. "They do it on people who have sex changes from women to men. But there can't be many people like me who were born a man but without a penis."

Andrew was told that a penis could be constructed using skin muscles and nerves in his left arm and a vein in his right leg, which would be attached to his body. Skin from his buttocks could then be grafted onto his arm. A chunk of his arm is visibly missing. He plans to get a tattoo to disguise it.

Last December, he was finally ready for the "erection pump" stage of the procedure.

A reservoir containing saline was created and inserted into the left side of his abdomen. This contains the fluid responsible for making the penis erect.

On Friday last week, Andrew had a two-hour op to complete the phalloplasty when all the tubes, pumps and penis were connected.

In all, it has cost the NHS NZ$136,000. It's hugely intricate, clever stuff and Andrew is in awe of his surgeons. "They're geniuses," he says simply. While Andrew's implant deserves its "bionic" moniker, the first record of a penis implant dates back to the 16th century when Ambroise Pare, a surgeon with the French army, fashioned a penis out of wood to aid urination for an amputation patient.

The first penis implant of the modern era is thought to have been carried out in 1936 by a German physician, N A Borgus, who engineered a prosthesis that worked for both urination and intercourse, using rib cartilage.

It is hoped that at some point in the future Andrew will also be able to urinate normally through the penile implant.

For now, though, he's just looking forward to getting rid of his constant erection.

He says he's happy to go public about what is undoubtedly an embarrassing condition because it has helped others. "Just the other day I got a message from a man in Mexico saying he'd read my story and it had encouraged him to seek help — he didn't specify his condition — and now he's happy and has a girlfriend.

"But I think he's helped me more than I helped him.

"It's shown me that I'm doing something positive with my life."

Next week he will take the train back down to London for the deflation procedure. Then, after the inflation and deflation test runs, he will be ready to give it a try-out.

What happens then, is no one's business but his and Fedra's.