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May 27, 2017

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Man shows off first US full face transplant

BOSTON, Massachusetts -- A young father who was terribly disfigured in an electrical accident showed off his new look Monday alongside doctors who performed the United States' first full face transplant.

Visibly moved as he described how his young daughter called him "handsome" and how the first whiff of hospital food was so tantalizing, 26-year-old Dallas Wiens said there were no words to thank the anonymous donor and his family.

The world's first full face transplant was unveiled last year by doctors in Spain, a European feat that followed the first partial face transplant in 2005, carried out on a French woman who had been mauled by a dog.

Wiens, who lives in Texas, burned his face off in November 2008 after the left side of his head touched an electrical wire while he was working up high in a cherry picker.

The high voltage electrical wire destroyed his nose and lips and blinded him. Wiens lost his left eye in the accident and has no light perception remaining in his right eye.

The hospital said Wiens was not likely to resemble the donor.

At the press conference, Wiens wore black sunglasses and a dark goatee beard, and appeared swollen on one side of his face.

Plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahac led the team of physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists who worked for more than 15 hours to replace Wiens's nose, lips, facial skin, nerves and muscles.

The operation was done in March by a 30-strong team at Brigham and Women's Hospital, which hailed the first full face transplant performed in the United States as a sign of medical progress.

Elof Eriksson, chief of plastic surgery at Brigham and Women's hospital, said Wiens has been through the first three steps — the initial workup, the surgery and the post-operation healing.

Two years ago, doctors at the same hospital performed a partial face transplant on a patient named Jim Maki who was making progress, Eriksson said.

The world's first full face transplant took place in Spain, and doctors at Vall d'Hebron hospital in Barcelona showed off their work to the public in July 2010.

The 31-year-old recipient, identified as Oscar, was injured in a shooting accident and spoke at a televised news conference with considerable difficulty. He could not close his mouth and his face appeared swollen.

The first successful partial face transplant was performed in France in 2005 on Isabelle Dinoire, a 38-year-old woman who had been mauled by her dog.

Since then about a dozen face transplant operations have been carried out in China, the United States and Spain.

Wiens also spoke to reporters with some difficulty, but said he has already begun to regain his sense of smell.

Now he is considering university education and is looking forward to leading a more normal life with his young daughter, who was delighted by his new look.

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