Face transplant woman hopes to kiss again

4th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

4 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - When Isabelle Dinoire received the world's first face transplant two years ago, doctors warned she might never be able to kiss again.

4 October 2007

PARIS (AFP) - When Isabelle Dinoire received the world's first face transplant two years ago, doctors warned she might never be able to kiss again.

Now the 40-year-old Frenchwoman can eat, speak and smile normally, according to "Isabelle's Kiss," a book on her odyssey released this week.

But the surgeons who conducted the pioneering operation to replace her mouth, nose and chin, warned Dinoire the transformation only would be truly complete when she managed to pull her facial muscles into the shape of a kiss.

"Every day she practises," writes the book's author Noelle Chatelet, who spent four months at Dinoire's side after the life-changing surgery in November 2005. "She is so close now to giving that kiss."

Mixing narrative and interviews with Dinoire, the book takes the reader from the day the young woman was rushed to hospital in May 2005 after being disfigured by her dog, to the press conference the following February at which she revealed her new face to the world.

It offers the first behind-the-scenes account of Dinoire's operation and process of physical and mental recovery, since she left her northern hometown of Valenciennes to escape media pressure.

After the accident, "I didn't want people to look at me," Dinoire says. "I had the face of a monster."

"The hardest part was the nose, because you could see the bone," she says. "It made me think of a skeleton, it made me think of death."

The following November, in a groundbreaking operation, Dinoire was given the mouth, nose and chin of a donor -- a French suicide victim -- and a chance at a "new life". "I will never forget that moment," she says.

The author, who spent four months at Dinoire's side, says she was struck by her "exceptional courage", and was convinced she had emerged stronger from the ordeal.

But the surgery also left Dinoire battling with feelings of horror and disgust.

"The hardest thing to accept was to have the inside of someone else's mouth. It wasn't mine, it was all soft, it was atrocious."

Dinoire says she now thinks of her donor as a "twin", to whom -- in the early days after the operation -- she used to actually speak out loud.

She tells of finding a hair growing from her chin, where none had been before: "You can see that it's yours, but at the same time that 'she is there. I am keeping her alive, but the hair belongs to her."

"One day I said: 'My I have an itch in my nose', then looked at my daughter and realised, 'No it's not my nose, I have an itch in a nose," Dinoire recalls, although she said "it all became easier once the nerves got going again."

Dinoire remains under heavy immuno-suppressant medication to prevent her body from rejecting the graft, with weekly check-up and physiotherapy visits to the hospital in Amiens, northern France, where she underwent the operation.


Subject: French news

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