Dallas Wiens, a 25-year-old native of Fort Worth, TX, received the nation’s first full face transplant last week at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston. A plastic surgery team of more than 30 healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists and residents, worked for over 15 hours to replace the young man’s face. Areas included the nose, lips, facial skin, muscles of facial animation and nerves that move areas of the face and provide sensation. The team was led by Dr. Bohdan Pomahac. Wiens is reported as being in good condition.
Wiens, a construction worker, was involved in an electrical accident with a power line in November 2008, which left him blind and without a face. The identity of the donor has not been disclosed.
"This remarkable, anonymous gift is another example of the life-affirming power of organ and tissue donation,” said Richard S. Luskin, president and CEO of New England Organ Bank in a statement on the hospital’s website. “As always we are immensely grateful to the donor and the donor family for their generosity.”
The surgery was the first full face transplant in the U.S., and the second face transplant procedure performed at BWH; the first was a partial face transplant, in April 2009.
“Today’s tremendous news marks a new milestone in Brigham and Women’s legacy in transplant surgery. The pioneering achievement accomplished by the entire transplant team is a gift made possible by the most selfless act one human being can do for another, organ donation,” said Betsy Nabel, MD, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in the statement.
BWH has long been recognized as a leader in transplant surgery. In 1954, a BWH team, led by Dr. Joseph Murray, performed the first successful human organ donor transplant. The surgery was between two brothers, and the organ transplanted was a kidney. Dr. Murray received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1990 for this breakthrough event in medicine.
Other groundbreaking transplant events at BWH include:
- First heart transplant in New England in 1984 (the 600th heart transplant was performed at BWH this year)
- First heart-lung transplant in the state of Massachusetts
- First triple-organ transplant in the U.S. in 1995
- First quintuple-organ transplant in the U.S. in 2004
- BWH is also one of the top hospitals in the nation in transplant volume, performing 100 transplants in one year for the first time in 2006, and, in 2008, more than 30 lung transplants.
Wiens spoke inspirationally on a YouTube video in 2010 about what he missed by not having a face, including feeling his three-year-old daughter’s kisses:
Image: Wikimedia Commons