Dr. Pedro Cavadas
“If I was doing this out of vanity, it would be far too dangerous. Surgery done as a way of boosting your ego tends to end up with a dead body on the operating table.” Ego trips notwithstanding, the operation is not without risks, and the formal go-ahead required from Spain’s National Transplant Association (ONT) came in May after the probable patient, a car-accident victim, had consented to the operation. The search is now on for a donor. The most important condition, which will make such a ground-breaking operation possible, according to the 44-year-old surgeon, has already been satisfied. “It’s all come about thanks to our work on lower-leg surgery. We’ve discovered enough from that to make it possible to carry out a full-leg operation, and to feel confident about it.” Getting the 35-strong team of immunologists, anaesthetists, nurses, auxiliaries and recovery personnel in the right place at the right time is no small task, either. The operation will be carried out in the Hospital Universitari La Fe in Valencia, with Dr Cavadas and his team of surgeons doing the scalpel-wielding and leg-welding.
The surgeon admits he is no saint. “I’m no Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” he says. “I don’t believe in God – He’s freed me of that necessity – and I can be a bad bastard like everybody else. But I do think that the act of giving is hugely important and is one of the biggest pleasures you can get in life. “Giving is something we’ve forgotten about in the Western world. The vast majority of people are obsessed with how to keep huge amounts of money they don’t need. It eats them up unnecessarily.” A trip to Africa in the mid-1990s was partly what shaped Dr Cavadas’s outlook. It’s one he sticks to, travelling with a medical team to northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia for eight weeks each year to help the most needy. Dr Cavadas is scathing about using immensely profitable plastic surgery for artificial “improvement” of physical features. “I’ve never done that kind of operation and I never will. It’s a ridiculous act of vanity and typical of the Western world bloated with money.”