In today’s modern day, technology plays a very important role in the medical field. Every year, thousands of people are saved from life-threatening diseases and complicated surgical operations, specifically face transplants.
A face transplant is the removal of some or all of a patient’s skin and replacing it with a donor’s skin. The majority of face transplant patients only receive a partial bit of skin to recover dead skin from the face, whether the face was severely burned or attacked. Although it may sound gory and disgusting, scientists have been able to learn about how this specific kind of transplant works.
But how are donors found for these kind of transplants? First potential donors are found, typically a donor that is brain dead or is alive and on life support. After that, the donor is chosen based on the age, skin tone, and DNA compatibility. Next, the skin is removed from the donor and placed into a packed ice container to preserve the skin. Then, microscopic needles are sewn into the nerves and tissues of the skin to connect the new skin to promote blood flow. Finally, the new face is covered over the majority of the patient’s face.
The first person to ever receive the world’s first partial face transplant was Isabelle Dinoire. She was born and raised in Valenciennes, France. She survived a vicious dog attack and suffered years from a deformed face. Through the transplant, she received a new nose, chin, and mouth. The donor had been a patient who was proclaimed brain dead after an attempt to suicide a few weeks before the procedure. In 2005, the Amiens University Hospital performed the 15-hour procedure that changed Dinoire's life. Isabelle was able to drink, eat, and talk within the first week of recovery, but had no sensitivity in her facial skin until months after the surgery.
Dinoire’s procedure was declared a medical breakthrough and many congratulated the over 50 surgeons and doctors who assisted with her procedure. However, 11 years after the procedure, at the age of 49, Isabelle died from a long battle of cancer. Doctors and surgeons are still uncertain if the transplant triggered Isabelle’s illness, but research about the process and recovery of face transplant patients are still under way.