Meet the first person to undergo two face transplants
At 43 years old, France's Jerome Hamon is the world's the first person to have had two face transplants. Hamon suffers from a rare genetic mutation called neurofibromatosis type 1, which causes severe disfiguring tumors. Now three months after the unprecedented second face transplant surgery, he is recovering in Georges-Pompidou Hospital in Paris. Here's more about him.
Hamon's first face transplant was conducted in 2010 by Laurent Lantieri, a professor of plastic surgery. His donor was a 60-year-old man. Though the operation was a success, he was administered an antibiotic to treat a common cold later that year, which was incompatible with his immunosuppressive treatment. In 2016, his body started to reject his new face, which was eventually removed in November.
As doctors searched for a compatible donor, Hamon spent two months without a face, like the "the walking dead". He had no eyelids, ears or skin, could neither speak or eat, had limited hearing and could express only through head turns or writing. "If you have no skin, you have infections. We were very concerned about the possibility of a new rejection," Lantieri said.
A 22-year-old donor was finally found and a second face transplant was conducted on January 15-16 by Lantieri and his team. Before the surgery, it took doctors a month to replace all the blood in Hamon's body to remove potentially dangerous antibodies from earlier treatments. Currently, his new face is smooth and motionless. His features, skull and skin aren't yet fully aligned.
If not for Hamon's fighting spirit, this unprecedented feat wouldn't have been achieved. "For a man who went through all this, which is like going through a nuclear war, he's doing fine," Lantieri told The Guardian. The hospital's staff "was blown away by Jerome's courage, his will, strength of character." "While he was waiting, he never complained," Bernard Cholley, an anesthetist, told The Telegraph.
Despite the prolonged suffering and the medical complications, Hamon says he's a happy man. "I feel very well in myself. I can't wait to get rid of all this," Hamon said. "The first transplant I accepted immediately. I thought 'this is my new face'. It's the same this time. It's a question of identity. Here we are, it's good, it's me," he added.
Since Isabelle Dinoire was given the first partial face transplant in 2005 after being bitten by her dog, 40 face transplants have been carried out across the world. However, Hamon's is the first case of a re-transplant. His surgery proves a facial transplant can successfully be redone. "Today, we know a double transplant is feasible. It's no longer a field of research," Lantieri said.