Saturday 10 December 2016

A brave face for dad, and delight for daughter

Russell Contreras in Boston

Published 10/05/2011 | 05:00

Full face transplant patient Dallas Wiens with his three-year old daughter Scarlette
Full face transplant patient Dallas Wiens with his three-year old daughter Scarlette
Dallas Wiens before the surgery

"Daddy, you're so handsome," these were the first words little Scarlette Wiens said yesterday when she saw her father's new face.

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Dallas Wiens appeared before the world's media yesterday having become the first American recipient of a full face transplant. An emotional Mr Wiens thanked his doctors and confessed he found the whole experience more than a little daunting.

Sporting a goatee and dark sunglasses, Wiens joined the team of surgeons at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, in his first public appearance since the 15-hour procedure in March.

"It feels natural," said the 25-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, who received a new nose, lips, skin, muscle and nerves from an anonymous donor.

Surgeons said 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 the left side of his forehead.

But Mr Wiens said the recovery of his sense of smell and the ability to breathe through his nose had been the best parts of the recovery.

He said the first thing he was able to smell after the surgery was hospital lasagna, saying: "You wouldn't have imagined it would smell so delicious."

He revealed that three-year-old Scarlette, and his faith, kept him motivated.

The operation was paid for by the US military, which hopes to use findings from the procedure to help soldiers with severe facial wounds.

The US Department of Defence gave the hospital a $3.4m (€2.37) research grant for five transplants.

Mr Wiens' facial features were all but burned away and he was left blind after hitting a power line while painting a church in November 2008.

He had worked with a construction company.

More than 30 doctors, nurses and other staff performed the operation.

Dr Jeffrey Janis said the transplant "represents a new frontier in reconstructive surgery".

Mr Wiens has undergone about two dozen operations since the accident.

There have been a dozen face transplants worldwide.

Irish Independent

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