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Texas man gets first full face transplant in U.S.
March 21st, 2011
04:04 PM ET

Texas man gets first full face transplant in U.S.

Dallas Wiens may soon be able to kiss his daughter, Scarlette, again, now that he has become only the second person in the world to receive a full face transplant.

The 25-year-old Wiens, who lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, received the new face at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital last week, when a family donated a loved one's tissue for the transplant surgery.  The forehead, nasal structure, nose, lips, facial skin and underlying muscles and nerves that allow Wiens to move his face and have sensations were transplanted.  The hospital would not reveal the actual surgery date to protect the privacy of the donor family.

"Dallas was injured in November 2008 when his face got too close to high-voltage line while on the job," Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, Brigham and Women's Burn Unit director, told reporters Monday. "He sustained devastating injury leaving him with bare bones instead of face."

Dallas Wiens before his surgery

Pomahac said the purpose of the full face transplant is to restore "human appearance and function." After his face healed from the accident, Wiens' only facial trait was his mouth. Once his new face heals, he will not look like himself, nor will he look like the donor because the new tissue will mold to the young man's remaining tissue and bones.

Wiens' grandfather, who is with his grandson in Boston right now, calls the surgery a miracle. He says after his grandson was so seriously injured, he did not know what would happen.  His grandson, he says, is  determined to "get well and move on with his life and make something of his life."  Wiens has been walking and talking to his family in Texas by phone.  Doctors expect he will be eating on his own soon.

His doctors expect Wiens will eventually regain sensation on his forehead and right side of the face and most of the upper and entire lower lip. Damage to a few nerves on his left side were too severe, so doctors do not expect very much sensation to be restored to his left cheek and left forehead.

One thing surgeons couldn't restore was his eyesight. "Unfortunately we do not know how to transplant, at the current age, eyes, so we were not able to restore his vision," said Pomahac.

Pomahac said when he first saw Wiens' injuries he feared they were too extensive to allow for a new face to grafted on. The blindness was also a consideration. But, Pomahac says,  "We have the obligation to help if we can."

Last April,  surgeons in Spain successfully completed the first ever full-face transplant. Three months later, the patient, only identified as "Oscar" stepped before the cameras of the world.

In December 2008, Connie Culp became the first American to receive a "near" full-face transplant after surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic replaced more than 80% of her face in a 22-hour operation. Culp had survived being shot in the face by her husband.

France's Isabelle Dinoire, who was mauled by a dog, was the first person ever to receive a face transplant back in November 2005. French surgeons replaced part of her face, including her chin, lips and nose, with those from an organ donor.

Brigham and Women performed its first partial face transplant in 2009. According to Pomahac, that patient is now on the lowest dose of anti-rejection drugs compared with the other face transplant recipients in the world.

Wiens' doctors say he is doing great and meeting all his milestones.  They say he will stay in the hospital for the near future and eventually return to Texas.  But recovery of the nerves will take months.

Pomahac says two other patients are waiting for face transplants at Brigham and Women's.  He believes  face transplants will continue to be rare unless the qualifications for the surgery change or more qualified patients are found.

Before a patient can receive a face transplant, a blood and tissue match has to be found, plus a patient has to be able to comply with taking the necessary drugs to prevent the rejection of the new face.  Also, patients need to be mentally capable of handling having a face that is different from their own.


soundoff (195 Responses)
  1. Brian

    There's no after pic because he just had the surgery guys.. it takes a few weeks for the tissue and muscular swelling to go down. His face right now looks nothing like it will look like in a few weeks. Usually facial transplants require follow-up surgeries to tighten the skin and adjust the muscles so that their movement is natural and not impeded.

    If they were to show an after pic when he got out of surgery, it wouldn't look too promising. But given a few weeks, I'm sure he will look great. He has a young daughter, who probably misses her dad's face. Don't really understand why people feel it necessary to make cruel remarks toward him. He was injured in an accident.. it could happen to anyone of us. Thankfully, he is in the hands of some of the best surgeons in the world, in the ones at Boston Brigham and Women's hospital.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • silly

      ok doc don't strain yourself too much......

      March 23, 2011 at 04:18 | Report abuse |
  2. bezerkur

    oh i guess cnn doesnt believe in freedom of speech. they erased my comment. sorry i offended u highness of the editing room.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. compassion

    The future holds only good, greatfull things for people like this. May only love and compassion follow you with age, and future. Life is a gift as we all should know and see. Although things like this present hints to what we have and what we all shall take for granted. My love truly to you and your entire family.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. rose helen militello

    to CNN,since some insensitive bloggers feel their comments fall under the heading"freedom of speech"maybe you should take a stand, your "Terms of Service"says no obscene(disgusting to the senses) comments.if they feel they can skirt the Amendment then you need review your Rules of Conduct.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. aubrie

    will they be able to put in glass eyes for appearance sake after this surgery? It appears that he still has eye sockets that could accomodate them. It's not mentioned specifically in the article, but it would do wonders for his overall appearance afterward. Poor young man. That was a totally devastating accident.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Joel

    :( he looks kind of scary but I'm glad this guy is getting a new face god bless him. and what happend to his eyes?

    March 22, 2011 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Meh

      Read the article much?

      March 22, 2011 at 12:01 | Report abuse |
  7. Kristal

    amaxing all the best 2 You and yours on a speedy recovery' maybe in the yrs 2 follow they can repair damage 2 his eyes its a great result my heart is happy 4 U

    March 22, 2011 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. katincal

    Medical science has come a long way. My prayers were with Mr. Wiens. Maybe someday in the future they will be able to restore his eyesight as well. God Bless.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Brian

    God bless this young man.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J

      wow, what a brave soul

      March 22, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse |
  10. notborncynical

    This young man is very courageos and I wish him the best. But I know if it were me I would much rather be dead.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thinking7

      He is amazing. He is doing all this for his young daughter. He is courageous beyond words. This young man is very admirable indeed. What compassion and love.

      March 22, 2011 at 16:20 | Report abuse |
  11. Catherine

    I sincerely hope Mr. Wiens will have a successful recovery and a happy life. What a brave soul he is to undergo such a surgery and also to allow his damaged face to be exposed to the world so that we can learn from his experience what a miracle surgery can be done to restore some semblance of normalcy. I feel more sorry for the people who heartlessly laugh at him for his pre-face look than I do feel sorry for Mr. Wiens. At least Mr. Wiens has a loving family around him. God is with you, Mr. Wiens. May He give you strength, patience, grace and especially faith to believe that good will come of this – not just for medical science but for YOU. You will be in MY thoughts and prayers. I would feel honored to see your restored face and to hear a follow-up on how you get along in life after your full recovery. I am certain you will be surrounded by angels and other helpful people. God bless you.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. f

    I truly think I may may have killed myself if this happened to me. I pray for him to recover and have a normal new face. Maybe someday doctors can give him eyes that work. Who knows, maybe a computerized eye? God bless him.

    March 22, 2011 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Sanjib

    I hope the person to have full recovery and should have a happy life. But I also salute the doctors who did this miracle. Those doctors gave the person a second life to live in this beatiful world. The government should have a special mechanism to appreciate the contribution of those doctors and their family; safety of them from all negative aspects of life.

    March 22, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. CLH

    What an amazing and brave man and family. I pray for his quick healing after the surgery, and commend his determination to get on with his life. That's so much more than I think I could do in his shoes, and so admirable. God bless you!

    March 22, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. HRB

    IN RESPONSE TO T-PARTIER4EVER: I really think that social Darwinism has no place in these comments. This unfortunate situation only serves to highlight the incredible need in this country for a medical safety net be it affordable insurance, an employer mandate or a direct government plan. It is bad enough that we have to play economic roulette with our employment, our retirement and our personal finances but to have to face the prospect of a catastrophic illness or injury without protection is the truly unconscionable part of the equation.

    Mr Wiens is so very fortunate that dedicated medical professionals were willing to step up and contribute their skills and talents, but it shouldn't have to be that way. After all, only by the grace of God any one of us could find ourselves in similar dire straights. Good luck and good life Mr. Wiens.

    March 22, 2011 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Cat

    May nothing but good things come your way. Good luck and GOD bless you. Your daughter has a wonderful father and you are her hero.

    March 22, 2011 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Killallthewhiteman

    Blakes! Got a new face!

    Wanted to see the after pic

    March 22, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. maddy

    Happy for you .get well soon. will pray for his surgery that everything should go weel and soon he should and he will see the word

    March 22, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Guest

    Shutup.

    March 22, 2011 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Luis

    God I hope he can live a normal life. So much he's lost. I want to cry.

    March 22, 2011 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Northern2011

    That's a very good article. I'm sick of all the Wars, death & hate so a good story is a great change.

    March 23, 2011 at 00:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. JJ

    I have never been so moved by any story. So many times in life, we are ungrateful about things and yes, I am including myself in that camp. The higher power works in mysterious ways, and I have just been reminded that I should be thankful for everything that I have. I really hope to God that this gentleman lives to see happiness in his life. My prayers and thoughts are with him and with his courage he will back in no time.

    March 23, 2011 at 06:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. yaa

    praying for a successful surgery and a quick recovery lord have mercy

    March 23, 2011 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. omegad

    I admire this mans will its incredibly strong. The comments on here are so generic though "god bless" "pray this pray that" really? If a miracle had anything to do with it it wouldn't have happened in the first place. Wheres the praise for the surgeons that will put their knowledge and skill to the test for over 20+ hours with a persons life on the line. Technology and doctors skill will be challenged no doubt, it took many decades to perfect advanced transplant techniques so one out of hundreds succeed its not a miracle its called trial and error till the error is no longer valid. Quit dumbing forums down with supernatural meanderings.

    March 23, 2011 at 11:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa Johnson

      There is always that one TROLL that needs to be negative. People are praising GOD because it is a miracle you moron. And if you believed in GOD you would know that he is the one who lead the person(s) into making the tools that allowed this operation to be possible. Go back to Google with the rest of the TROLLS

      March 24, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
  25. brian

    so...ppl are praying for this guy? you shouldnt pray for ppl like these he was stupid enough to get his face close to something so dangerous that it well...incinerated his face...
    it was electrical so signs mustve been all over the place.
    nothing brave or inspiring about this guy, he was just dumb to do this and lucky enough to find a donor.

    March 25, 2011 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kat

      Grow up – Accidents happen, if it were you You'd change your tune!

      June 28, 2013 at 22:48 | Report abuse |
  26. Joel Raes

    Hope the future improves this persons quality of life.

    Joel Raes

    April 2, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. C

    I have no feeling of horror looking at the person's face. But I fully understand a desire to regain a face. I wish this man the very, very best. I think it is amazing we have come so far with our medical science.

    Please ignore the trolls here. I don't wish an accident to happen to them, even. But I hope something helps them to understand that accidents happen and it is terrible and the victims should be helped. Grow up! :/

    May 9, 2011 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sara Jones

      Very well said! I cannot stand unsympathetic morons. I say the Brian guy who enjoys hatred and cruel remarks is "dumb" id on't even like that word!!! I pray for the young man who had the face transplant...he and his beautiful little daughter will enjoy life even more every step of their journey! People don't think about the family when people do "dumb" things..he does need to grow up!!!

      May 10, 2011 at 09:48 | Report abuse |
  28. George

    May God help that poor man to be,completely, healed. I feel very sorry about his disfigured face after the terrible high-voltage electric shock. How, truly, very sad.

    May 9, 2011 at 20:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Poetry

    A person essentially help to make severely posts I might state. That is the first time I frequented your website page and to this point? I amazed with the research you made to make this actual post amazing. Fantastic process!

    May 1, 2012 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. mirsat

    I would like to know how much money is to do surgery plastic transplatija new face

    March 29, 2013 at 23:07 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.