Texas man gets first full face transplant in US

March 21, 2011 By RUSSELL CONTRERAS and MARILYNN MARCHIONE , Associated Press

In this Oct. 13, 2010 file photo, Dallas Wiens, 25, speaks during an interview in Fort Worth, Texas. Weins was critically burned in a 2008 high-voltage power line accident and received a full face transplant at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, during the week of March 14, 2011. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
(AP) -- A Texas construction worker horribly disfigured in a power line accident has undergone the nation's first full face transplant in hopes of smiling again and feeling kisses from his 3-year-old daughter.

Dallas Wiens, 25, received a new nose, lips, skin, muscle and nerves from an unidentified dead person in an operation paid for by the U.S. military, which wants to use what is learned to help soldiers with severe facial wounds.

Wiens will not resemble "either what he used to be or the donor," but something in between, said plastic surgeon Dr. Bohdan Pomahac). "The tissues are really molded on a new person."

Pomahac led a team of more than 30 doctors, nurses and other staff at Brigham and Women's Hospital during the 15-hour operation last week. Wiens was listed in good condition at the Boston hospital on Monday. He did not appear at a news conference with the surgeon.

The Fort Worth man's features were all but burned away and he was left blind after hitting a power line while painting a church in November 2008. The transplant was not able to restore his sight, and some nerves were so badly damaged from his injury that he will probably have only partial sensation on his left cheek and left forehead, the surgeon said.

"When I saw Dallas for the first time I was worried that there may not be much we could do," said Pomahac, (pronounced POE-muh-hawk).

Wiens (pronounced WEENS) has been able to talk to his family on the phone, said his grandfather, Del Peterson, who attended the news conference Monday.

After the accident, Wiens said "he could choose to get bitter or he could choose to get better. His choice was to get better. Thank God today he's better," Peterson said.

In an Associated Press story and a YouTube video last fall, Wiens spoke poignantly about why he wanted a transplant and how he wanted to smile again and feel kisses from his daughter, Scarlette, who turns 4 next month. Face transplants give horribly disfigured people hope of an option other than "looking in the mirror and hating what they see," he said.

He told the AP that his daughter and his faith have kept him motivated.

"She says, `Daddy has a boo boo, but God and the doctors are making Daddy's boo boo all better,'" Wiens said. "She doesn't care and she never has since day one that I was disfigured."

No details about the donor were disclosed. The hospital said the match was based on gender, race, age and blood type.

Peterson said his grandson hopes to become an advocate for facial donations, and he thanked the donor family, saying, "You will forever remain in our hearts and our prayers and we are grateful for your selflessness."

The surgery was paid for by the Defense Department, which gave the hospital a $3.4 million research grant for five transplants.

The new federal health care law also helped Wiens by allowing him to get insurance coverage under his father's plan for the expensive drugs he will have to take for the rest of his life to prevent rejection of his new face. He will be covered until he turns 26 in May. He expects to be eligible soon under Medicare, which insures the disabled as well as those over 65.

Wiens had no insurance when he was injured; Medicaid covered about two dozen operations in Dallas until his disability payments put him over the income limit.

About a dozen face transplants have been done worldwide, in the U.S., France, Spain and China. This was the third in the U.S. and the second at the Boston hospital. The previous one was in April 2009 - the partial replacement of the face of a man who was injured in a freak accident. In 2008, Connie Culp became the nation's first partial face transplant recipient. She underwent surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.

Pomahac said one of the two people on the waiting list in Boston for a face transplant is Charla Nash, the Connecticut woman who was mauled and blinded by a friend's 200-pound chimpanzee. The animal ripped off Nash's hands, nose, lips and eyelids. She is also waiting for a hands transplant.

The world's first face transplant, also a partial, was done in France in 2005 on a woman mauled by her dog. Doctors in Spain performed the first full face transplant last March for a farmer who was unable to breathe or eat on his own after accidentally shooting himself in the face.

Explore further: Second face transplant in US performed

More information:
Wiens on YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/dallaswiens

Wiens: http://www.dallaswiens.com

Hospital: http://www.brighamandwomens.org

shares

Related Stories

Second face transplant in US performed

April 10, 2009
Surgeons in Boston have performed the second-ever partial face transplant in the United States, replacing some 80 percent of a disfigured man's face.

Badly burned Texas man waits for face transplant

October 19, 2010
(AP) -- Dallas C. Wiens wants to be able to smile, to smell the rain, to feel his 3-year-old daughter's kisses.

China reports successful face transplant

April 14, 2006
Doctors in China performed a 14-hour transplant surgery on a 30-year-old man to replace his face, which was mauled by a bear two years ago.

World's first face, hands transplant patient dies

June 15, 2009
A Frenchman who underwent the world's first face and double-hand transplant in April after being disfigured in an accident has died, hospital officials said Monday.

7th surgery shows face transplants gaining ground

April 11, 2009
(AP) -- Five years ago, it was the stuff of science fiction: Replace someone's face with one from a dead donor. But on Thursday, Boston doctors performed the world's seventh such transplant - less than a week after one in ...

French hospital performs face, hand transplants

April 6, 2009
(AP) -- Paris' Public Hospital authority says a team of doctors has performed the world's first simultaneous partial-face and double-hand transplant.

Recommended for you

Tongue-in-cheek Nobels honor nutritional analysis of cannibalism, roller-coaster kidney stones treatment

September 14, 2018
A nutritional analysis of cannibalism and treating kidney stones on roller-coasters were research projects honored by tongue-in-cheek awards at Harvard University Thursday, designed to make you laugh first, and think later.

Pediatric robot patient offers new level of realism for doctors in training

September 10, 2018
A team of researchers and engineers at Gaumard Scientific has unveiled a new robot that raises the bar on medical training devices. The robot, called HAL, has been made to look like a five-year-old male patient and offers ...

Why men say they've had more lifetime sexual partners than women

July 25, 2018
The disparity between the number of sexual partners reported by men and women can largely be explained by a tendency among men to report extreme numbers of partners, and to estimate rather than count their lifetime total, ...

Censors jump into action as China's latest vaccine scandal ignites

July 22, 2018
Chinese censors on Sunday deleted articles and postings about the vaccine industry as an online outcry over the country's latest vaccine scandal intensified.

Revenge of a forgotten medical 'genius'

June 30, 2018
It's not an uncommon fate for a pioneering scientist: languishing unrecognised in his time before dying in obscurity. But as his 200th birthday approaches, the life-saving work of a Hungarian obstetrician is finally getting ...

Yes, you can put too much chlorine in a pool

June 2, 2018
(HealthDay)—Before you take a dip in the pool this summer, be sure there's not too much chlorine in the water.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.