First face transplant patient: ‘My entire story is a miracle’

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The first face transplant patient in the United States was in Chicago today… touting the remarkable technology that gave him a new outlook on life while doctors revealed the astounding action of blood vessels they never expected in the groundbreaking surgery.


Dallas Wiens, face transplant patient: “My entire story is a miracle.”


He finally believes in miracles after an accident that left him near death – his entire face burned off. Dallas Wiens was painting a church when he came in contact with a high voltage wire. That was back in 2008.


CaptureDallas Wiens:: “No features and only a two-inch slit for my mouth. How things have progressed and where I am today is further than we ever hoped for in the beginning.”


In 2011, doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital performed an experimental surgery — the first ever U.S. full face transplant. A family donated a loved one’s face, not just the skin but underlying arteries. The large vessels were connected from the donor face to the recipient.


Dr. Frank Rybicki, radiologist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital: “A person who has a catastrophic injury, it was applying field where we didn’t know where the vessels were. By mapping it we were able to say, there’s a vessel here where we can make the tissue live.”


The mapping is performed by radiologists, and thanks to a super CT scan called a 320-detector row dynamic computed angiography, they could see the connected vessels thriving – and the blood flow branching out to sill other smaller arteries. It worked for Dallas and the transplant patients after him.


Dr. Rybicki: “The most amazing thing is, amongst the three patients, there is very consistent vascular re-organization.”


And that means the skin is healthy and the tongue grows back.


Dr. Rybicki: “The blood flow to the tongue was still maintained. This was surprising.”


Dallas Wiens: “I’ve regained about a fourth of the hair you see on my head, all of my facial hair, the ability to breathe through my nose, and I have prosthetic eyes and a far more advanced ability to eat. My speech has progressed dramatically.”


Dr. Rybicki: “It’s a lot of science that’s been built over the years with such an exceptional human being who can now spread that message to others.”


And the message today is one of gratitude and need.


Dallas Wiens: “The aesthetic benefits are amazing, of course, but the physical and functionality have improved my life in ways I couldn’t even put into words. I would love to see the number of donors increase dramatically … when it’s time for their life to end it could be time for a new life to begin.”


The new finding was among many revealed at the Radiological Society of North America meeting taking place here this week.



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