World's First Partial Face Transplant Recipient Speaks - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/6/06-Amiens, France

World's First Partial Face Transplant Recipient Speaks

The woman who received the world's first partial face transplant thanked her doctors as she stepped before the media for the first time since the groundbreaking surgery.

"I hope the successful operation will help other people like me to live again," said Isabelle Dinoire, 38, who was disfigured when she was attacked by her pet Labrador

"I now have a face like everyone else," she told reporters Monday at the hospital in Amiens in northern France where the surgery was performed. "A door to the futu

Her speech was heavily slurred and hard to understand, and she appeared to have difficulty moving or closing her mouth.

But the divorced mother of two teenage daughters told how a dog bite left her disfigured, and she thanked the family of the donor who gave her new lips, a chin and nose.

Fine scar lines could be seen from her nose over her cheekbones down to her jaw where the tissue was attached in a 15-hour operation on November 27.

"I can open my mouth and eat. I feel my lips, my nose and my mouth,"

During the news conference, while one of her surgeons was speaking, she lifted a cup to her lips and appeared to drink.

"I want to resume a normal life," Dinoire said. "I pay homage to the donor's family. ... My operation could help others

She said that she was wrestling with personal problems at the time, had had a trying week, and "took some drugs to forget," which knocked her out, The Associated Press quoted her a

Dinoire said she was passed out when the dog bit her and that she didn't realize the extent of her injuries when she awoke.

"I tried to light a cigarette, and I didn't understand why I couldn't hold it between my lips,"

"I looked in the mirror. I was horrif

With her wounds worsening, she was barely able to eat or speak. She said she accepted the idea of the transplant "immediately" and then waited six months for a suita

The donor tissue came from a female suicide victim who had been declared brain dead, doctors said.

Dinoire also spoke of the difficulties of life with disfigurement, saying she suffered stares when she went out.

"I understand all people who have a handicap,"

The procedure has been unable to restore the way she looked before the dog bit her.

"There's no comparison between the face I have today and the face I had seven months ago, it is totally different,"

No reservations

The surgery is believed to be the first of its kind. While the technology to perform it has been available for some time, ethical concerns have delayed the implementation of such procedures.

But doctors in this case said they had no reservations about what they did. The procedure went smoothly and four hours after surgery blood was circulating in the donor graft.

"When you saw this person's face, how severely disfigured, you'll understand why we had to take this challenge," transplant surgeon Dr. Jean-Michel Deuber

Dinoire is still undergoing a strict regimen of immunosuppression therapy so her body doesn't reject the donor skin, a problem that has been encountered in other skin transplants, the doctors said.

She is also being monitored and aided by a team of psychologists, they said.

"She is doing well, she is normal, normal except maybe a little insensitivity (on her face)," face transplant surgeon Dr. Bernard Devauch

According to People magazine, Dinoire has been eating strawberries and chocolate cake to try to regain the weight she lost. To her doctors' dismay, however, she has once again taken up smoking.

She has been shuttling between Amiens and the southeast city of Lyon, where she receives further treatment.

While the surgeons have appeared in public previously, until Monday they kept Dinoire away from the cameras and in the hospital as much as possible.

But now they say she is ready to get on with her life and there is no medical reason for her to remain hospitalized.

When she does go home, it will be to even more publicity -- and money. According to one report, she has signed agreements worth nearly $1 million for a book, a documentary and a feature film about her story.

In the United States, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio are screening patients for a potential full face transplant, an official there said.

The clinic is the only U.S. institution that has the approval of its internal review board to do the procedure.

Such an operation would be conducted only on severely disfigured patients, the official said, most likely on burn victims, because those patients usually still have their bone structure and musculature in place.

The procedure should not be considered elective, the official said.

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