A 31-year-old Spaniard who was given the world’s first full face transplant four months ago, has this morning appeared at a press conference alongside the doctors who performed the procedure, at Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebron University Hospital. Following a shooting accident five years ago, the man, identified only as Oscar, could only breathe and be fed through tubes. During a 24-hour operation, he was given a new nose, lips, cheekbone, lower and upper jawbone, palate, teeth, skin, and muscles.
Oscar, who uttered his first words a month after the operation, is still having speech therapy, and can currently only eat liquids and soft foods, thanked the 30-strong medical team. “I’m very happy to be here, and I would like to express my gratitude to the hospital and the medical team, and to all donors in Spain, especially the family of the man whose face I received.”
The 30-strong medical team, led by doctor Joan Pere Barret, was at pains to stress that Oscar’s face does not look like the face of his donor, but rather is an amalgam of the two. “He absolutely does not look like the donor patient, and I think that’s important for society to know. In terms of future donations of faces there is no such danger of this.”
There have been 12 partial face transplants–most famous was that of Isabelle Dinoire five years ago, after she was mauled by her dog–but this is the first full transplant to be carried out on a patient. Farmer Oscar had previously undergone nine operations at another university, and was, after psychiatric evaluation, thought to be an idea candidate for the full-face transplant. Life is still, however, difficult. He cannot close his eyes, and has limited movement of his mouth, but the doctors expect him to regain 90% of his facial capabilities over the next 18 months.
“I felt for him today, and we are all incredibly proud,” said Dr. Barret at the presser. “It was a very brave thing to face everyone today. From the moment the surgery was over, he has been very stable, very relaxed and very much looking forward to resuming normal life. He has been very isolated and now wants to do what all young men want to do. He is single, he wants to go out with his friends and have fun.”
[Photograph by David Ramos/AP Photo]