Face Transplant Recipient Carmen Blandin Tarleton Unveils New Look: How Does A Transplant Work? [PHOTO]
A face transplant recipient unveiled her new look yesterday, six years after her then-husband violently attacked and disfigured her.
"I feel great appreciation and gratitude for the tremendous gift that I've been given," Carmen Blandin Tarleton of Vermont said at a press conference yesterday. "My spirits are high, and I feel really good and happy."
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In 2007, Tarleton's husband, Herbert Rodgers, accused Tarleton of cheating on him. On the night of June 21 of that year, Rodgers doused her with lye and beat her with a bat. The lye burned 80 percent of Tarleton's body and blinded her.
The lead-up to the face transplant procedure took five years, requiring 55 surgeries. Tarleton's vision has been restored to a state of legal blindness, and at yesterday's press conference she was able to read her remarks off of a tablet. In the wake of the face transplant, which occurred two months ago, Tarleton has had problems turning her head and lifting her chin, and her drooling is hard to control. Her doctors say those problems should eventually abate.
Partial face transplants have been a reality since 2005, but it was only three years ago, in 2010, that the world's first full face transplant took place. In that case, in Spain, doctors not only transplanted facial skin, but muscles as well, including cheekbones and teeth, over the course of a 22-hour operation.
Transplants are risky, because the body will sometimes reject the transplant. This was the case with Tarleton, whose body initially rejected the new face. Her body contained an unusual number of antibodies, resulting from her numerous preparatory surgeries. Tarelton's doctors came up with a successful cocktail of immunosuppressive, or anti-rejection, drugs, which Tarleton will have to take for the rest of her life.
"I believe I can safely say that [Tarleton] is the most immunologically complex patient that has ever received a composite tissue transfer -- meaning a face or hand transplant," Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, one of Tarleton's surgeons, said during yesterday's press conference.
Tarleton received her new face from Cheryl Denelli-Righter, who died in February from a stroke.
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