While other men are getting facelifts and perfect ears, Dallas Wiens received a new nose, lips, facial skin, muscles, and nerves—America’s first full-facial transplant.
Back in November 2008, Wiens, a 25-year-old father from Fort Worth, Texas, burned his face when he hit a power line while painting a church on a cherry picker. And now thanks to more than 30 doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, 15 hours of surgery, and an anonymous donor, Wiens will be able to smile and receive kisses from his 3-year-old daughter, Scarlette.
Wiens is expected to be eating soon and returning home. Although he is supposed to regain most of the sensation on the right side of his face, his left side was too severely damaged. Dr. Pohamac, the lead surgeon, said Wiens will look like neither himself nor the donor, but somewhere in between.
At the time of the accident, Wiens was an independent contractor and did not have health insurance. Medicaid helped cover about two dozen surgeries until his disability payments placed him over the income limit. But because of the new federal health-care law, Wiens was granted coverage under his father’s plan.
The operation was also funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, which gave the hospital $3.4 million for five to six transplants. They are hoping that future research will help the estimated 200 veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with disfiguring injuries.
Coincidentally, Wiens’ surgery was performed almost one year after the world’s first full facial transplant in Barcelona, which restored the face of a Spanish gunshot victim.
According to Wiens’ grandfather, Delton Peterson, Wiens will continue to become an advocate for facial donations.