Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, was the site of the first full facial transplant operation conducted in the United States. The patient is a 25-year-old man from Texas named Dallas Wiens, whose entire face was burned off by contact with a high-voltage wire in a 2008 electrical accident.
An organ donor, whose name was not released, made the transplant of nose, lips, facial skin, muscles and nerves possible for the stricken man. The surgery required more than 15 hours to complete and was conducted last week by more than 30 physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists.
According to Betty Nable, the president of the hospital, the surgery could not have been possible without the organ donation that represents the “most selfless act that one human being can do for another.”
Dallas Wiens is making significant progress since his surgery. He is still in the hospital where he will remain for an indefinite period of time, but he is talking on the phone with his family and friends and walking around. He will need to start eating before he can expect to return home to Texas. Doctors are optimistic that he will regain most of the sensation on the right side in his forehead and cheek, but on his left side, where the damage was the most severe, he may experience less feeling.
Although that old adage about beauty being only skin deep might have its place, for this young man, the true beauty lies in the opportunity to have a life and a face to live for.