The First US Face Transplant Recipient Can Finally Smile

Princess 19 on 17 Jan 2012 at 2:00pm

The recipient of the first full face transplant in the US is now talking about his experience since the surgery and the overwhelming feeling of being able to finally show emotion.

Dallas Wiens, 25, received his face transplant ten months ago after a horrible freak accident.  He was electrocuted by a power line when the cherry picker lift he was working from accidentally drifted into a live wire, burning his entire face off.

Initially, he had over 24 surgeries, which left him with essentially no face at all.  In March of 2010, 30 doctors performed the full face transplant at the Brigham and Woman's Hospital in Boston for over 17 hours, as reported by ABC News

What has marveled him the most since the transplant?  Showing emotion.

"The ability to smile and to show emotion on my face, even unintentionally, is such a natural thing," Wiens told the Dallas Morning News.

Having a new face has changed me dramatically.” 

The transformation of Dallas Wiens

Wiens, along with two other face transplant patients, were recently profiled in The New England Journal of Medicine.  The purpose of the study was to analyze if full transplants were better than undergoing several smaller surgeries for drastic facial reconstruction.  The study also helped solidify that this type of procedure should be more available.

The U.S. Department of Defense made the transplants possible with a $3.4 million grant, as noted in the NY Daily News.  The DoD hopes this type of procedure can help wounded soldiers in the future.

Wiens was the only patient of the three profiled who did not reject his new face in six months.  All recipients suffered infections from the transplants.

The [full face transplant] procedure can correct "severe deformities in a single operation" rather than having patients go through years of reconstructive surgeries, the study concluded.

This isn’t the first time a face transplant has made the news.  The most famous transplant was that of Charla Nash, the recipient who had been attacked by her neighbor’s chimp in 2009.  She debuted her new face in August.

Both face transplants (Wien’s and Nash’s) were performed by the same person, Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, who is also the Director of Plastic Surgery and Transplantation at the  Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"I think it's important for people to realize this [surgery] is becoming a reproducible technique," said Dr. Pomahac.  "The extent of how it will be used is undetermined, but it's here to stay."

Wiens still has to undergo therapy to perform everyday acts of drinking or moving his lips.  But the Texan still has a positive outlook despite the hard work involved with recovery.

"This new face, it's not who I am. The old face wasn't either," said Wiens.

"Who you are is inside.  It's internalized.  It's who you show the world."

See more of the report from ABC News below.

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Photo credit:  ABC News, Wiens Family, Brigham and Women's Hospital