Written for Scars1 by Michelle Alford
Last summer, Dallas Weins explained that all he wanted from his surgery was to be able to feel his daughter’s kisses. Now, a year after he was the first American to have a full face transplant, that wish has come true.
Dallas lost his face three and a half years ago when he was severely burned by a high voltage electrical line while working on a lift. Unlike most face transplant patients, Dallas did not isolate himself after his accident. He was often seen around town and at the local coffee shop with his young daughter and his friends.
A full face transplant is done for more than just aesthetic reasons. Since his surgery, Dallas has regained his...
sense of smell
ability to breath through his nose
ability to move his face and lips
Since then, there have been many more ways that Dallas was unlike other face transplant patients. Both his surgery and his recovery have gone remarkably well. Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, the doctor who performed Dallas’s surgery, reported at last week’s press conference that, “High levels of sensitization precluded [Dallas] from matching a donor, but he did. All transplant recipients are expected to have a rejection episode, but he’s the only patient in the world that has not had one despite minimal levels of immune suppression. Dallas has been a model patient throughout his recovery, and for that we are very grateful.”
Though face transplants are becoming more common, there have still been fewer than a hundred successful face transplants worldwide. The first steps towards face transplantation were taken in 1994 when nine-year-old Sandeep Kaur’s face and scalp were reconnected by doctors after being torn off by a thresher. Eleven years later, the first partial face transplant was performed in France. Isabelle Dinoire’s nose and mouth were mauled by her dog and replaced with the facial tissue of a brain-dead patient. Her immune system later rejected the foreign tissue and she had to undergo a second surgery. Dallas was only the third known patient world-wide to undergo a full face transplantation and the first in the United States. His successful recovery is encouraging to patients and doctors alike.
Dallas told of his recovery, “I’ve regained more sensation in the past year than I’ve anticipated. I can move my face quite a bit more than what I expected. I am, as was one of my desires, able to feel my daughter’s kisses now, which brought me to tears on more than one occasion. I go out all the time with my family, my friends, my little girl. I don’t worry about what anyone else is gonna think. I’ve even been told by my friends and family that I hardly ever get a second look.”
In addition to increased sensation on his face, he has regained feeling and control of his lips and he hopes to soon get dental implants. He also has prosthetic eyes.
He had trouble putting into words how happy he is with every step of his recovery. “I don’t know how much harder it would have been had I not opted to have a face transplant,” he says, “but I know how difficult it was before…. These types of things can’t be measured.”
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Left image courtesy of Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas