In the first-of-its-kind surgery, a man has been given a second face transplant by a French surgeon. The patient, Jerome Hamon, was transplanted a new face in 2010, when he was in his mid 30s by Dr Laurent Lantieri, a plastic surgeon from the Georges-Pompidou Hospital in Paris. Now, he has been given a second face transplant following disfigurement due to the reaction of some common cold antibiotics.
Being nicknamed 'the man with three faces', Jerome is the world's first recipient of a full face transplant, which included giving him tear ducts and eyelids and occurred in 2010. Now, he has also become the world's first man to receive a double face transplant. He is suffering from neurofibromatosis type I, which is a condition of genetic mutation that leads to disfiguring tumours.
The first operation of Jerome was a success but his condition got complicated when he was given antibiotics for common cold that were incompatible with his immunosuppressive treatment. In 2016, he started showing signs of transplant rejection and this led to the disfiguration of his face.
It was in last summer that he was admitted to a hospital and in November, doctors removed his face due to irreparable necrosis. The man lived without a face for two whole months as there were no immediate donors available.
Hamon's condition was called as that of 'the walking dead' by Lantieri. The man had no eyelids, no skin, no ears, he could not eat or speak, had limited hearing and could only communicate by turning his head and a little bit of writing.
However, the second face surgery needed Hamon's approval. "I made up my mind very quickly," Hamon told a French daily. "I understood I didn't have any choice otherwise it would have ended in tragedy," he said.
However, he pulled through it very bravely. Finally, the medical team got informed about a donor in January, who was a 22-year old man who had died many kilometers away from Paris. Logistics and medical arrangements were swiftly launched and the surgeon was required to remove the face of the donor and carry it back to France by dawn.
In the late morning hours of the following day, the surgery was completed and Hamon's new face had a good colour. "[Everyone] was blown away by Jerome's courage, his will, his strength of character in a tragic situation... While he was waiting, he never complained, he was even in a good mood," Bernard Cholley, an anaesthetist, was quoted saying.
The breakthrough surgery has been successful and Hamon's face is now smooth and static. However, the alignment of his skull, skin and features is a gradual process and he would only gain more control with the help of immunosuppressants, say medics.
To be able to receive the second transplant, Hamon even went through three months of blood treatment to remove antibodies from his blood so as to accept the new face. He even had to receive chemotherapy to neutralize his immune system.
"The first transplant I accepted immediately. I thought, 'This is my new face' and this time it's the same... If I hadn't accepted this new face, it would have been terrible. It's a question of identity ... But here we are, it's good, it's me. When I look in the mirror, I say, 'That's Jerome'," he said.