10 May 2011

Makes 1st Appearance, Face transplants

The nearly two dozen operations he endured saved his life, but left his face featureless. He was unable to smell and had difficulty breathing. The face transplant surgery was performed by a team led by Bohdan Pomahac, an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and surgeon in the Brigham’s Division of Plastic Surgery. Pomahac also led the surgical team that — just weeks after Wiens’ surgery — performed a second full face transplant on a 30-year-old Indiana man whose face was badly disfigured when he came in contact with high-voltage wires after a car accident.

“I’ve called this operation life-saving. He was quite literally a man without a face,” Pomahac said of Wiens. “This face transplant will allow Dallas to more fully participate in Scarlette’s life — a true gift.”

The surgery restored Wiens’ ability to breathe through his nose and his sense of smell. Wiens lost his eyesight in the original accident and is still blind. The Brigham team led by Pomahac has conducted three such surgeries. In addition to Wiens’ and the second full face transplant just weeks later, Pomahac and his team did a partial face transplant in early 2009. America's first full face transplant recipient greeted the public Monday, just weeks after the 15-hour procedure that gave him a nose, lips, skin, muscle and nerves.

"It feels natural," Dallas Wiens told reporters at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "The first thing I was able to smell was hospital lasagna," said Wiens, who is still blind. Hospital lasagna.

"You wouldn't imagine it, but it smelled delicious," Wiens said.

Plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahac, who performed the operation on Wiens, said the transplant's results were better than he expected.

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