Sunday 4 December 2016

Oscar's brave new face on life

Daniel Woolls in Madrid

Published 27/07/2010 | 05:00

'Oscar' thanked his doctors and the donor family, after he underwent a full face transplant. Picture: AP
'Oscar' thanked his doctors and the donor family, after he underwent a full face transplant. Picture: AP

A Spanish man who underwent the world's first full face transplant appeared before TV cameras yesterday for the first time since his surgery.

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The man, identified only as Oscar, thanked his doctors and the family of the donor.

The 31-year-old spoke with considerable difficulty at the news conference at Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital, where he was operated on in late March.

During the 24-hour surgery, doctors lifted an entire face, including jaw, nose, cheekbones, muscles, teeth and eyelids, and placed it mask-like on to the man. He has been described as a farmer who was unable to breathe or eat on his own after accidentally shooting himself in the face five years ago.

The head of the surgical team, Dr Joan Pere Barret, said last night that Oscar would need between a year and 18 months of physical therapy and was expected to regain up to 90pc of his facial functions.

He is being released from hospital and sent home.

He is now able to drink liquids and eat soft foods, and has been able to speak for the past two months, the hospital said in a statement.

Rejection

The patient has regained feeling in most of his face and is partly recovering movement of his muscles. One good sign came a week after the operation, when he had to be shaved because of beard growth.

But he also suffered acute rejection twice -- once four weeks after the surgery and again between the second and third months. Both times, the new face was saved with medication.

At the news conference, Oscar seemed relaxed as he looked out at reporters with eyes he cannot yet close completely. A younger woman identified as his sister, whose name was not given to protect the family's privacy, said her brother looked forward to leading a normal life.

"He is eager to enjoy little things, like walking down the street without anyone looking at him, or sitting down for a meal with his family. Doing things that all of us do on a normal day," the woman said.

A French team announced a similar operation earlier this month, saying a 35-year-old man with a genetic disorder had an entirely new face, including tear ducts that cried and a chin that sprouted stubble.

The first face transplant, albeit partial, was carried out in France in 2005 and since then about a dozen more have been done, including three in Spain.

Irish Independent

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