Face-transplant patient 'ready for normal life'

6th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

AMIENS, France, Feb 6, 2006 (AFP) - The first person to receive a face transplant appeared before the media on Monday, declaring she was eager to get back to normal life after the historic operation nine weeks earlier.

AMIENS, France, Feb 6, 2006 (AFP) -  The first person to receive a face transplant appeared before the media on Monday, declaring she was eager to get back to normal life after the historic operation nine weeks earlier.

In a press conference before scores of journalists, photographers and TV cameras, Isabelle Dinoire, 38 — whose name had previously been kept secret under French law — said she was making good progress since the ground-breaking surgery and hoped to return to work.

"Since my operation I have a face, like everyone... I will be able to resume a normal life," the French divorcee and mother of two said.

Dinoire received a triangular-shaped graft, comprising the nose, lips and chin from a brain-dead donor, to replace parts of her face that had been mauled by a dog in May.

With medium-length blonde hair and blue eyes, and wearing a black top and pink cardigan, Dinoire appeared to be wearing thick makeup to disguise the scars of the operation.

Her lips were heavy and inflexible, and she spoke with an accentuated lisp but was otherwise comprehensible as she read her statement with a touch of nervousness.

Dinoire also drank a glass of water at one point during the press conference without encountering any difficulty.

The patient recounted that on May 27 she "fainted" after "taking medicines to forget" personal problems.

"When I woke up, I tried to light a cigarette and I couldn't understand why it didn't stay between my lips. Then I saw the pool of blood and the dog next to me," she said.

"I went to look in the mirror and was horrified, I couldn't believe what I saw, especially as I didn't feel any pain."

"My life changed," said Dinoire who would spend six weeks in hospital, "afraid to go outdoors, afraid of other people's stares... of what they were thinking."

For weeks, she could only open her mouth a few millimetres (fraction of an inch), which meant she could only take her food in liquid form.

Six months later she accepted the opportunity of a transplant gratefully.

"Now I can open my mouth and eat. I have recently begun to get feeling in my lips, nose and mouth. Of course, I still have to carry on with kinestherapy and work to reactive all the muscles, and obviously I have to carry on taking immunosuppressors," she said.

"Since leaving hospital, I intend to resume my family life and then a professional activity. In fact I want to resume normal life."

Dinoire paid tribute to the family of the female donor which consented to the graft and to the surgical team that carried out the operation. She also appealed to the media for restraint.

"I now understand the position of all people who have a handicap, of whatever kind it is. I hope that my operation will enable other people to live again," she said.

The November 27 operation was led by Bernard Devauchelle, a professor of facial surgery at a hospital in Amiens in northern France.

He worked with Jean-Michel Dubernard, a surgeon at the Edouard Herriot hospital in the eastern city of Lyon and a parliamentarian, who performed the world's first hand transplant in September 1998, followed by the first double hand and forearm transplant in January 2000.

Several other prominent surgeons around the world had been sketching plans for a face transplant, considered one of the toughest surgical tasks.

It combines micro-surgery to connect nerves and blood vessels, a high risk of rejection by the recipient's immune system and a major psychological challenge to the patient, given that the face is the most individual of organs.

Dubernard told the press conference Dinoire was on a course of powerful immunosuppressors and stem cells from the donor were injected into her bone marrow to help combat long-term rejection.

The transplant team came under fire from within the French medical profession for releasing post-operation pictures of the patient.

The National Order of Doctors said the release of the images was "spectacular and morbid" and a breach of the profession's code of conduct stating that doctors should not seek publicity for their work.

However, Dubernard said the team had asked the French health authorities for permission to carry out five more face transplants.

"We want to launch these new techniques to give hope to other people all over the world," he said.

Devauchelle said the team sought to consolidate the technique "which is why we have submitted this request as a clinical research project."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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