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John Wayne Bobbitt’s Plastic Surgeon Recalls The Surgery That Captivated A Nation
“Every guy is going to feel anxiety with his weenie cut off, but he never really had much pain that I am aware of or can remember, he never really said, 'Why me,'” Dr. David Berman said of John Bobbitt’s reaction to the infamous penis cut.
It's become one of the most infamous cuts in American history.
On the early morning hours of June 23, 1993, Lorena Bobbitt chopped off her husband’s penis while he was asleep, then threw the severed organ out the window of her car after fleeing their Virginia apartment.
The act would ignite a media frenzy and put both John and Lorena on trial — him for marital sexual assault and her for malicious wounding— in a dramatic he said/she said battle about what had prompted the early-morning attack.
Lorena claimed she snapped after being repeatedly sexually assaulted during their marriage. John denied the allegations and claimed he had asked for a divorce just before the attack, prompting his wife’s rage.
Lorena would be found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity for the malicious wounding charge, while a jury in a separate trial found John not guilty of the allegations against him.
Now, more than 25 years after the infamous cut, John Wayne Bobbitt’s plastic surgeon, Dr. David Berman spoke to Oxygen.com about the infamous surgery and what it was like to become part of a story that once captivated a nation.
When Berman, who now practices with the , got the early morning call that fateful Wednesday morning, he wasn’t on call with the hospital where the surgery would later be performed, but he did have the necessary microsurgery experience.
“At the time they called me, they hadn’t found John’s missing part, so I said, ‘Should I bother coming down [because it was early in the morning] if you don’t have anything to put back on?’ and they said, ‘No, we’ll find it, she told them where she threw it.’”
The early morning caller was right: The penis would be discovered in a small field across from a 7-Eleven by police officers who would later pack the severed penis in ice and place it in a hot dog bag from the nearby convenience store.
Meanwhile, Berman headed to Prince William Hospital in Manassas, where John had gone to the emergency room to seek help.
Although John described the injury as a “nightmare” to ABC News, the ER staff on duty at the hospital was struck by how unbelievably calm the 26-year-old was at the time.
“There was no hysteria, he just kind of walked up [to the desk],” Berman said, adding that staff initially thought he’d been cut in his arms or hands.
It wasn’t until they asked him where he had been hurt that they discovered the full extent of his injuries.
The calm demeanor persisted even after Berman arrived and met with Bobbitt for several minutes just before surgery to try to re-attach the severed member.
“Every guy is going to feel anxiety with his weenie cut off, but he never really had much pain that I am aware of or can remember, he never really said, 'Why me,'" he recalled.
Berman had never completed or seen a similar surgery before, but said many of the same principals are involved whether you are reattaching a finger or a penis.
From a technical standpoint, Berman said it’s actually easier to reattach a penis rather than a finger because a finger has tendons and bone structures that also need to be considered. Bobbitt’s reattachment, which took about nine hours to complete, involved a couple arteries, a vein, and a nerve. Urologist Dr. James Sehn also assisted in the surgery to connect the urethra.
The key to a successful reattachment is being able to re-establish blood flow.
“They are either 100 percent successful or 100 percent failure,” Berman said. “There’s not much in between and obviously, fortunately, it worked out well.”
The surgery was a success and Bobbitt’s penis was reattached.
Berman said there were several factors that helped lead to the procedure’s success. The first was that police officers were able to recover the severed member in a matter of hours and quickly get it on ice and to the hospital.
“Obviously had a little squirrel, or bird, or something like that taken it, it would have been a very different story,” Berman explained.
Lorena had also used a sharp kitchen knife, which resulted in a clean cut.
“I am not sure she was thinking of that when she did it, but it definitely was helpful for me,” Berman mused.
In a strange twist, Berman’s role in John’s saga did not end there. The plastic surgeon also recommended John's lawyer after getting the name from a friend at dinner after completing the surgery.
“When I met John and his family the next day, I said, 'Look, I don’t care if you use this guy or not, I’ve got no financial interest, I’ve never even met him, he just came recommended,'” Berman said.
John would spend about three weeks recovering in the hospital before being released into the media storm that had erupted over the case.
Berman also found himself pulled into the frenzy and said he was able to get an inside perspective on how the media worked.
“It was interesting to me to watch how the media picked and chose how they reported and how they spun things,” he said.
Although the surgery would forever link Berman’s name to pop culture history, it wouldn’t earn him any money.
After John’s court battles, he declared bankruptcy, and according to Berman, the hospital and physicians involved never got paid for the surgery.
After the trials ended, John would go to star in several adult films, including "John Wayne Bobbitt Uncut" and "Frankenpenis."
Berman said he felt compelled to watch John’s first adult film to be able to see his handiwork in action.
“Even for me, I fast forward through most of it because it was just awful,” he said.
After the first film, John later underwent a penile augmentation from a separate physician, a procedure that enlarges the penis by adding fat into it. The enlarged member starred prominently in "Frankenpenis" and closely resembled a “coke can” Berman noted.
Just two years ago, after reconnecting with John, Berman performed the world’s first fat reduction in a transplanted penis under local anesthesia and oral sedation to restore the penis to its normal size.
“It’s normal now,” John told ABC News. “I don’t want to mess with it…it’s been through the wringer.”