World's first full face transplant man appears on TV

26th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Spanish man who underwent the world's first full face transplant revealed his new look on Monday before television cameras, paying tribute to doctors and the donor's family as he left hospital.

"Friends, I want to thank the hospital coordinators, the entire medical team, the family of the donor and most of all my family who are supporting me these days," said the 31-year-old, identified only as Oscar, who had the operation in March.

The man -- who reportedly suffered injuries in a shooting accident five years ago -- spoke at the televised news conference with considerable difficulty and could not close his mouth and his face appeared swollen.

He wore a blue scarf which hid scars on his neck and his hair was combed foreward to hide scars on his forehead which doctors say will be fully concealed in the future.

A team of about 30 experts carried out the transplant on March 20 at Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital on the man, who could not swallow, breath or talk normally due to his injuries from the accident.

During the 24-hour-long operation, he received new facial muscles, skin, nose, lips, a jaw, teeth, a palate and cheekbones, said the leader of the medical team that carried out the procedure, Joan Pere Barret.

"Bit by bit he is improving but he nonetheless has a long and difficult road ahead to have intelligible speech like he had before," he told the news conference.

The patient has recovered feeling in most of his face except for in the middle of his lips and still can only consume a liquid diet, Barret said.

He still is not able to close his eyes but will be able to soon, and he "has already recovered the ability to move his eyebrows and can even smile," said the doctor.

Doctors took care to ensure that the patient's new face was created in the likeness of the face he had before his accident and did not resemble that of the anonymous donor.

Oscar's sister, who did not give her name, said her brother was eager to take up hunting and fishing once again, his main hobbies before the accident.

"All he wants is to have a normal life again. Now my brother can walk in the street without people staring at him, enjoy a meal with his family. My brother will be able to have a new life thanks to the doctors' work," she said.

While 11 other face transplants have been carried out around the world previously, the Vall d'Hebron hospital says they involved only part of the patient's face.

The first successful face transplant was performed in France in 2005 on Isabelle Dinoire, a 38-year-old woman who had been mauled by her dog.

Since then face transplants have been carried out in China, the United States and Spain, which carried out its first such operation in August 2009.

Spain led the world in organ donations in 2009 for the 18th consecutive year, according to the health ministry.

© 2010 AFP

0 Comments To This Article