Hand, face transplant patients to meet in France

14th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

BORDEAUX, France, Dec 13 (AFP) - The Frenchman who received the first ever double hand transplant nearly six years ago, plans to visit the world's first face transplant patient in hospital next week, he told AFP on Tuesday.

BORDEAUX, France, Dec 13 (AFP) - The Frenchman who received the first ever double hand transplant nearly six years ago, plans to visit the world's first face transplant patient in hospital next week, he told AFP on Tuesday.

"I am going to meet her to encourage her in this beautiful adventure," Denis Chatelier told AFP by telephone, adding that the meeting had been agreed with the 38-year-old woman's medical team.

He said he planned to travel next Wednesday to the eastern French city of Lyon, where the patient, identified only as Isabelle D., has been under medical supervision since her partial face transplant on November 27.

"I will talk to her so she doesn't lose her high spirits," he said.

Chatelier, from France's western Charente-Maritime region, was operated in January 2000 by transplant pioneer Jean-Michel Dubernard, who also supervised the high-risk face transplant.

He said that he planned to talk to Isabelle D. about coping with permanent immuno-suppressing medication, which is needed to prevent the body from rejecting the graft but which has serious side effects.

"The treatment is heavy to begin with, but as the years go by it becomes more bearable," he said.

He would also talk to her about the process of re-educating the body following a transplant.

"I had to tame (my hands), the body has to tame them. Today I live with them. But it took 18 months to two years in order to get them under control".

Chatelier admitted that he had lived through "highs and lows" since his operation almost six years ago. "I still think of the donor," he said.

The face transplant patient, a mother of two from Valenciennes in northern France, lost both lips, her nose and chin after she was mauled by her dog in May, and was unable to speak or eat properly.

Doctors grafted a nose, chin and mouth taken from a brain-dead donor onto her lower face at a university hospital in the northern French town of Amiens in a world first for an operation that carries high medical risks.

Dubernard said on Tuesday that the patient should be able to return home within "two to three weeks... if all goes well", and that the graft's appearance was still normal, in an interview on France 5 television.

He said she was eating normally and speaking much better than before the operation, although she would still need speech therapy.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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