Disfigured in Mishap, Man Gets Full-Face Transplant
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23 March 2011
Boston, MA USA
Receives New Skin, Muscles From Dead Man In 15Hr Op
A Texas construction worker horribly disfigured in a power line accident has undergone the United States’s first full–face transplant in hopes of smiling again and feeling kisses from his 3–year–old daughter.
Dallas Wiens, 25, received a new nose, lips, skin, muscle and nerves from an unidentified dead person in an operation paid for by the US military, which wants to use what is learnt to help soldiers with severe facial wounds. Wiens will not resemble "either what he used to be or the donor", but something in between, said plastic surgeon Dr Bohdan Pomahac. "The tissues are really moulded on a new person."
Pomahac led a team of more than 30 doctors, nurses and other staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital during the 15–hour operation last week.
The Fort Worth man’s features were all but burned away and he was left blind after hitting a power line while painting a church in November 2008. The transplant was not able to restore his sight, and some nerves were so badly damaged from his injury that he will probably have only partial sensation on his left cheek and left forehead, the surgeon said.
"When I saw Dallas for the first time I was worried that there may not be much we could do," said Pomahac. "Wiens has been able to talk to his family on the phone," said his grandfather, Del Peterson.
After the accident, Wiens said "he could choose to get bitter or he could choose to get better. His choice was to get better. Thank God today he’s better," Peterson said.
In news story and a YouTube video last fall, Wiens spoke poignantly about why he wanted a transplant and how he wanted to smile again and feel kisses from his daughter, Scarlette, who turns 4 next month. Face transplants give horribly disfigured people hope of an option other than "looking in the mirror and hating what they see", he said.
He said that his daughter and his faith have kept him motivated. "She says, ‘Daddy has a boo boo, but God and the doctors are making Daddy’s boo boo all better,’" Wiens said. "She doesn’t care and she never has since day one that I was disfigured." No details about the donor were disclosed. The hospital said the match was based on gender, race, age and blood type. Peterson said his grandson hopes to become an advocate for facial donations.
The surgery was paid for by the Defense Department, which gave the hospital a $3.4 million research grant for five transplants.
About a dozen face transplants have been done worldwide, in the US, France and China. This was the third in the US and the second at the Boston hospital. The previous one was in April 2009 – the partial replacement of the face of a man who was injured in a freak accident.