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My name is Valery Spiridonov and I am potentially going to be the first head transplantation patient. I've been featured on many news websites all over the world. Currently, I am working with an international team of robotics specialists that are based in the U.S. to create the first ever autopilot wheelchair system called Clever Chair. You can find out more about Clever Chair and help support us here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/clever-chair/x/9768156#/
Clever Chair is something that has the potential to help millions of people with disabilities, so even if you aren't disabled, I would really appreciate it if you could take a look and support our project.
I am going to be answering questions personally and my friend will be helping out as well. Ask me anything!
I understand the docters want to call it a head transplantation. But... wouldn't you rather call it a body transplantation yourself? ;)
You could think of it in both terms. The most important thing is the end result!
How many people have told you that you should quit while you're a head?
Technically I will only be a head if I go ahead with the transplant. In all seriousness, many people do not understand that my goal is not to be a guinea pig, but instead as a person who supports innovative technology. That is why I am developing Clever Chair and it's why I am supporting research in head transplantation. I want to be the first patient, but only once it is proven as a relatively safe surgery.
Are you not scared?
IF it does work do you know how long it will take to heal?
Of course, but life is scary in general. Most people with the same disability that I have do not live to be my age. The same can be said for someone like Steven Hawking. I am alive and I want to make the world a better place. That's why I want to be the first head transplantation patient and why I develop things like Clever Chair.
What will be the first thing you do after your surgery? (and presumably the years of physiotherapy)
I find your candor and courage very inspiring. :)
I would like to buy a Ducati motorcycle and go on vacation.
If you could transplant your head on any living person, who would it be and why?
Are you volunteering?
If, say, your secretary were murdered, would you consider using her body as the donor? What would you think if, when you woke up, you could communicate with her personality? Would you consider getting pregnant with your own sperm that you'd previously frozen? Would you then marry your lawyer and live on a boat? If your husband/lawyer were to die and somehow you could communicate with him after death, and we as a people were at a point technologically that we had terraformed the moon, would you consider moving your triple-self to the moon even if it meant dying when you were having your double-self's baby because your body was rejecting your original brain?
I see I now have my very own fan fiction. I love it! Hopefully, I will remain a man when I get the transplant.
Are you aware that the chances of this working are near nil?
Going to the moon was considered impossible. The first heart transplant was considered impossible. Yet both of these things happened. I am a believer in innovative technology. This surgery will take time to research, maybe even 5-7 years before the first operation happens, but ultimately, I have no alternative.
Can you explain exactly how it's going to work?
For one, how will they keep your head alive during the surgery?
This is a very good question, but I answered something similar to this already here, " If you google my name Valery Spiridonov, there are many articles that go in to detail about the procedure. The surgery research is called HEAVEN/GEMINI, so those keywords should help you find out more about the technical aspects of the surgery." I can't go into full detail here because it would take up too much space, but Canavero details the solutions to the biggest problems for this surgery, which is re attaching the spinal cord, keeping me alive and recovery.
Taking a look at your picture, your head looks great (I'd trade mine for yours!). In one of your replies, you said you have no alternative. I understand that there can be issues unrelated to looks that might be the driving force here, so do you mind explaining why there is no alternative?
Edit: He's having a BODY transplant.. not a head transplant. You transplant the pieces you're getting rid of, not the pieces you're keeping.
Ultimately, there is no alternative because my muscles are gradually atrophying and my heart may eventually stop working. Most people with my condition do not make it to my age, so I am an exception. In spite of this, I am very active, as you can see with the tech projects that I am working on (see description above).
So wait just for clarification, you're not getting the transplant now, but years down the line, if it's safe? You don't have a date picked out for the surgery already?
Clever Chair looks awesome by the way, great work and I hope you reach your goal! You're fearlessness is amazing.
Yes, and this ties into constant media sensationalism. The earliest that the surgery could happen is 2017, but that does not mean that this is when the surgery will happen. It likely won't be in 2017 because there needs to be a lot more research done before the first human head transplantation can be done. I hope clever chair is successful and any contribution helps.
What is your current sex life like? Are you able to masturbate? What are your expectations regarding future sexual function?
I actually have a girlfriend and everything is going just fine :). I am very happy.
I can't imagine what you're going through right now and props for being open all of this. But I would suspect the hardest part about all of this is just the waiting and uncertainty of what's going to happen next? Is that so? And how do you deal with that type of anxiety and stress? Or does thinking about it give you hope/optimism?
I cannot be stressed because the future can only hold better things. In spite of my disability, in the near future I may gain the ability to walk and not have to worry about death from my muscles atrophying constantly. This is why I am so active in developing future technologies. It's why I learned english, engineering, and taught myself programming and 3d modeling. This is why I am so passionate about clever chair too, because an autonomous indoor wheelchair would help a lot for people with disabilities like me and I hope people will support it.
Do you expect the results to end anything like futurama?
I hope it ends with good news for everyone.
Do you have any preferences for what your new body should look like? Do you want to be taller, hairier? Bigger dick?
It doesn't matter in the long run. Whatever body you have, if you are physically able, then you can get fit, be active, healthy nutrition, and get the body you want. That's what I hope for.
Realistically, do the doctors think its possible you'll have 100% functionality?
100% functionality is not possible and not expected. What this surgery is meant for is to restore functionality and be able to take care of myself. Things like walking, taking a shower, going to the bathroom. I cannot do that at all right now by myself, so this would be a huge improvement. This personal experience is why I developed clever chair, so that people with disabilities like mine do not need to deal with awful joystick wheelchair controls.
If you are very active, why risk a procedure that has an Infinitesimal chance of success?
I am active in an intellectual sense, as you can see with development of Clever Chair. In a physical sense, I cannot walk and I can only move a couple of fingers. It is hard for me to lift up an iphone plus. I want extensive research to be done and all necessary precautions to be taken before doing this surgery, but I don't have another option. All of my life, I have strived to develop new technology and enable better lives for people with disabilities.
I've been interested in your story since I heard about you a few months ago. I hope your surgery and Clever Chair project is successful. Will you do another AMA after your surgery if it is successful and you are feeling up to it? I'd be very interested to hear what it's like to get a new body.
I am very interested too and I will definitely do it again after the surgery. The people here have been very nice and have some interesting questions.
If this procedure is successful, will you be an advocate for other people with similar conditions to undergo this operation?
I am doing everything I can right now to advocate for this surgery to become a reality. That is what my organization, Desire for Life is about. So I am already advocating for this type of surgery.
Is there a link of a video that can describe what exactly the procedure might be, or an article?
What parts of you will be actually transplanted, more specifically -where is the cut off - what parts will you specifically taking with you to your new body?
If you google my name Valery Spiridonov, there are many articles that go in to detail about the procedure. The surgery research is called HEAVEN/GEMINI, so those keywords should help you find out more about the technical aspects of the surgery.
Were you at any point sceptical when Dr Canavero was proposing this surgery?
I have researched this question for a long time before Canavero because of my disability. Going back to experiments made by dr Wight (don;t know if I'm spelling his name correctly). So when Canavero announced his intentions, it was clear to me from the get go. Canavero brought a solution to the biggest problem, reattaching the spinal cord (successfully done on mice at this point), which Dr Wight could not do. That is why I was never skeptical.
The one question I absolutely want to ask?
We're all thinking it.
How long do you think it will be before you masturbate, if the operation is successful?
How bizarre will that be, since it's not your original hands and not your original genitalia?
I hope this question isn't too weird. I really am curious.
Oh, and has anyone said anything about skin colour? Different people have different skin colours. If this works, will your skin colour even out, or will your head always have a different shade of colour to the rest of your body?
I'm just as curious as you. I will be the first person with this experience, so I will let you know after I get the surgery... As far as a donor, it will have to be someone who is compatible (ie blood type stuff like that).
Do you ever listen to Basement Jaxx?
To get you in the mood and all.
I might play this during the operation.
The Clever Chair is awesome. Have you looked into Intel RealSense for the ranging and mapping? It is giving some drones obstacle avoidance.
Thank you very much, this project is something that I am very dedicated too. Every contribution matters, even if it's a dollar or two, it'll help us get Clever Chair made. The technology we are using to map indoor space is very similar to what virtual reality headsets use for tracking and mapping room scale VR. Namely IR blasters and cameras. This is in addition to the smartphone application. Intel RealSense seems like an interesting addition and we are always looking at ways to expand the technology.
Quite a few with SMA live rather long and productive lives. Do you see the head transplant as the only alternative to living? You don't seem to be using any ventilator support yet.
Also, as you pointed out, re-attaching the spinal chord is the biggest hurdle. I mean, thousands have spinal chord injuries every year, yet I'm not aware of any current procedure that can help re-attach/repair the connection in humans. You mention an experiment done in mice, has this been attempted since in primates at least? If there was a safe and effective treatment to re-attach the spinal chord, why isn't it offered to those who suffered injury?
Great questions. Experiments have been done in primates and there has been proven reattachment of the spinal cord in mice. You are right, something like this has the potential to affect millions of people with spinal cord injuries. The difference is that a surgical clean cut is not the same as a traumatic injury, so the healing process is very different. If you'd like to know more about the procedure and plan, then I would suggest googling the HEAVEN/GEMINI project for further details.
I read about you in my country's top newspaper and I have been wondering ever since - Can this turn back aging ? What would be the estimated cost of the surgery ?
Canavero, who is currently the most public figure for head transplantation makes this point and says that one of his goals for this surgery is immortality. I am not sure I agree with that viewpoint. I believe that it is something that can help people with severe disabilities like mine, who will not live long without it. The cost of surgery depends on where it is preformed. Estimates right now for the first surgery are between 5-15 million united states dollars. If this surgery is implemented on a wider scale, then the cost will of course go down, as it did with heart transplantation surgery.
Saying you might be the first head transplant patient is also sensationalist if the best-case scenario is that in 7 years it might be successful in mice.
There actually have been successful experiments in mice and I do plan on being the first human patient, so that is accurate. However yes, the timeline for this is not as short as the news would like you to believe. This is how scientific progress is made. That is why I am leading development for Clever Chair, which aims to solve transport problems for people with severe disabilities like me in a time period that is not long.
What are some things that you now enjoy? What are things you would like to do if your procedure is a success?
Today, I enjoy simple things. Watching movies, talking with others, reading books and pursuing educational and technological development opportunities. In the future, after the procedure, I would like to do some type of sports activity and go on vacation.
Is this covered by insurance, or paid for by the researchers?
There is no precedent for insurance coverage for a surgery like this, because it has never been done before on humans. As the first person to have the surgery, it will likely be covered in research costs.
From the comments I get the feeling you are trusting your doctor with the specifics of the operation, or am I wrong?
Since this is a life-or-death issue, I don't know how I could not be obsessed with every detail before making the decision of the go-ahead with this operation, I understand your illness shortens your life, but you'd be throwing away some of those years away if the surgery doesn't work. What are your thoughts about this?
I will never be able to dedicate 30 years of my life towards research of head transplantation like Canavero has, so everyone must do what they do best. In my case it is advocating for technological innovation and developing projects like Clever Chair. Saying that, Canavero has published numerous scientific papers about this subject which any physician can critique. In May for example, there were studies published in the medical journal Surgery, which you can read for very in depth information about the procedure. This was done by Chinese doctors and Canavero. It is a very interesting read.
This is really really intriguing to me. I've discussed this a bit with my wife who is in the medical field. What is the procedure going forward to removing and re-attching your head? In particular fusing around the spinal cord back together? Could this potentially leave you paralyzed?
This is an interesting topic and one that is at the center of the research that is being done. Canavero has published his approach in scientific papers, including in the medical journal, Surgery, which you may be interested in. In addition PEG plays an important role in the fusing of the spinal cord. This has been demonstrated in the successful re-attachment of the spinal cord in mice. Here is a video on it's positive affect on a formerly paralyzed dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZppVL4vXBg&feature=youtu.be
In regards to paralysis, I am already paralyzed, so that would not change much if that were the case.
How do you feel about the probable personality changes that will come about after your body chemistry changes?
My belief is that any person changes their personality as they age. They gain new perspective, knowledge and their body undergoes physical changes when people age. The important thing is that my likeness, consciousness, memory and experience is all preserved. That is what I consider to be me.
Are you contractually committed to go through with this or can you back out at any time?
What would have to happen for you to abort mission?
(Also: I respect your bravery and faith in innovation.)
No, of course not. There is no contract and I'm not getting any money from it. It's in my interest for it to happen because of my disability. I do not think that you can force a human being to do any surgery or procedure. That would be unethical to say the least.
Where in your body does your soul reside?
I'll check and see where it is after the operation ;). Pope Francis and religious leaders have asked similar questions. The truth is that no one really knows the answer to that.
Where are they getting the old body from? Do they have to kill someone?
If you are interested in specifics like this, I would suggest looking at the field transplantation. This surgery does not differ in that respect.
Except nobody has even successfully done this kind of procedure even in animals. This isn't innovation or even ethical scientifically
That is not quite accurate. There have been many procedures done with animals and experiments are being made on mice right now. There have been many examples of these experiments. I understand the risks, but I am not diving blind head first (excuse the pun). I will wait until extensive research is finished and recovery is proven in animals. This process may take a long time, and up to 7 years. Right now, I am very focused on developing Clever Chair and I believe that this technology has the potential to have more near term positive effects for people with disabilities like mine.