18 Dec : Her injuries were ghastly: no nose, no palate, no way to eat or breathe on her own, a face so hideous that children who saw her screamed and ran away.
From the moment they met earlier this year, Dr Maria Siemionow knew the severely disfigured woman would be the one – the first person in the US to receive a face transplant.
"Our patient was called names and was humiliated. You need a face to face the world," said Siemionow, the Cleveland Clinic reconstructive surgeon who led the operation about two weeks ago.
During the 22-hour procedure, 80 percent of the patient’s face was replaced with bone, muscles, nerves, skin, blood vessels and some teeth taken from a woman who had died hours earlier.
It was the fourth face transplant in the world, though the others were not as extensive as this one.
"I must tell you how happy she was when with both her hands she could go over her face and feel that she has a nose, feel that she has a jaw," Siemionow said.
"She wants just to go out and be invisible in the crowd."
The patient’s name and age were not released, nor were details on how she was injured, and she did not appear at a hospital news conference also.
Surgeons said she was doing well and showing no signs of rejecting her new face. She was still sedated and unable to speak much, communicating mostly through writing, Siemionow said.
Doctors believe she will eventually be able to eat on her own, breathe normally instead of through a hole in her windpipe, and exhibit a full range of facial expressions, including smiling and frowning.