Full face transplant patient makes first public appearance

May 9 2011 - 11:06pm

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(The Associated Press) This May 3 photo released by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston shows facial transplant patient Dallas Wiens with his daughter, Scarlette, after his face transplant, done the week of March 14. Wiens made his first public appearance since his operation Monday.
(Associated Press file photo) Dallas Wiens, 25, is seen in October, after the electrical accident and before the full face transplant.
(The Associated Press) This December photo provided by Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, and released by Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, shows Dallas Wiens before he received a full face transplant at Brigham and Women's Hospital during the week of March 14. Wiens made his first public appearance since his operation on Monday in Boston.
(Associated Press file photo) In this Oct. 13 photo, Dallas Wiens, 25, describes his injuries 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. Wiens on Monday made his first public appearance since his operation in Boston.
(The Associated Press) Dallas Wiens has his picture taken with his daughter, Scarlette, in 2008, before an electrical accident disfigured his face.
(STEVEN SENNE/The Associated Press) Face transplant recipient Dallas Wiens, of Fort Worth, Texas, takes questions from the media as plastic surgeon, Dr. Elof Eriksson, looks on during a news conference Monday at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Wiens is the recipient of the first full face transplant in the United States.
(STEVEN SENNE/The Associated Press) Face transplant recipient Dallas Wiens, of Fort Worth, Texas, is assisted to his seat by Brigham and Women's Hospital spokeswoman Erin McDonough (left) and Dr. Jeffrey Janis before the start of a news conference at the hospital in Boston on Monday,
(STEVEN SENNE/The Associated Press) Face transplant recipient Dallas Wiens, of Fort Worth, Texas, is assisted to his seat by (from left) plastic surgeon Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, Brigham and Women's Hospital spokeswoman Erin McDonough and Dr. Jeffrey Janis before the start of a news conference at the hospital in Boston on Monday.
(STEVEN SENNE/The Associated Press) Face transplant recipient Dallas Wiens, of Fort Worth, Texas, is assisted by Dr. Jeffrey Janis as he departs a news conference at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston on Monday. Wiens is the recipient of the first full face transplant in the United States. Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, who led the 15-hour procedure in March, is seen at left. Doctors were not able to restore Wiens' sight.
(The Associated Press) This May 3 photo released by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston shows facial transplant patient Dallas Wiens with his daughter, Scarlette, after his face transplant, done the week of March 14. Wiens made his first public appearance since his operation Monday.
(Associated Press file photo) Dallas Wiens, 25, is seen in October, after the electrical accident and before the full face transplant.
(The Associated Press) This December photo provided by Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, and released by Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, shows Dallas Wiens before he received a full face transplant at Brigham and Women's Hospital during the week of March 14. Wiens made his first public appearance since his operation on Monday in Boston.
(Associated Press file photo) In this Oct. 13 photo, Dallas Wiens, 25, describes his injuries 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. Wiens on Monday made his first public appearance since his operation in Boston.
(The Associated Press) Dallas Wiens has his picture taken with his daughter, Scarlette, in 2008, before an electrical accident disfigured his face.
(STEVEN SENNE/The Associated Press) Face transplant recipient Dallas Wiens, of Fort Worth, Texas, takes questions from the media as plastic surgeon, Dr. Elof Eriksson, looks on during a news conference Monday at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Wiens is the recipient of the first full face transplant in the United States.
(STEVEN SENNE/The Associated Press) Face transplant recipient Dallas Wiens, of Fort Worth, Texas, is assisted to his seat by Brigham and Women's Hospital spokeswoman Erin McDonough (left) and Dr. Jeffrey Janis before the start of a news conference at the hospital in Boston on Monday,
(STEVEN SENNE/The Associated Press) Face transplant recipient Dallas Wiens, of Fort Worth, Texas, is assisted to his seat by (from left) plastic surgeon Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, Brigham and Women's Hospital spokeswoman Erin McDonough and Dr. Jeffrey Janis before the start of a news conference at the hospital in Boston on Monday.
(STEVEN SENNE/The Associated Press) Face transplant recipient Dallas Wiens, of Fort Worth, Texas, is assisted by Dr. Jeffrey Janis as he departs a news conference at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston on Monday. Wiens is the recipient of the first full face transplant in the United States. Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, who led the 15-hour procedure in March, is seen at left. Doctors were not able to restore Wiens' sight.

BOSTON -- The nation's first full face transplant recipient says the first thing his young daughter told him when she saw him after the operation was "Daddy, you're so handsome."

Dallas Wiens, sporting a goatee and dark sunglasses, joined surgeons Monday at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston in his first public appearance since the 15-hour procedure in March.

"It feels natural," said the 25-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, man, who received a new nose, lips, skin, muscle and nerves from an anonymous donor.

The operation was paid for by the U.S. military, which hopes to use findings from the procedure to help soldiers with severe facial wounds. The Department of Defense gave the hospital a $3.4 million research grant for five transplants.

Wiens' features were all but burned away and he was left blind after hitting a power line while painting a church in November 2008.

On Monday, Wiens appeared with a new, somewhat swollen face and a new head of hair before a packed room of reporters and photographers.

"I adapted to it very quickly," Wiens said. "As time went on ... I was able to smell again and breathe through my nose. Every step of the way was amazing."

The first thing Wiens' nose was able to detect after months of having no smell? Hospital lasagna.

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

Surgeons said 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 the left side of his forehead.

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

"The most fun part is to see the next six to nine months, when the function will start to come back and when Dallas will start to feel a light touch on his face," Pomahac said. "To me, that's really exciting."

In an article 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 4-year-old daughter, Scarlette.

Face transplants give horribly disfigured people hope of an option other than "looking in the mirror and hating what they see," he said.

He said his daughter and his faith have kept him motivated. He repeated that Monday.

"Even though I'm in amazing hands here," Wiens said, "I'm also in God's hands."

About a dozen face transplants have been done worldwide, in the U.S., France, Spain and China.

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