NEW YORK – Doctors have successfully performed the world’s first face and double hand transplant.
The 23-hour procedure was performed by a team of more than 140 healthcare workers in August 2020.
Joe DiMeo, 22, came before the media and told about his successful operation, saying that he had been given a “second chance at life.”
DiMeo had been involved in a car crash in 2018 after he had fallen asleep on the wheel while driving home from his night-shift job. His car crashed and burst into flames, leaving him with third-degree burns over 80% of his body. His fingertips were amputated and he had lost his lips and eyelids.
He had spent four months in a burns unit, including time when he had been put under induced coma. DiMeo had had 20 reconstructive surgeries after which he had regained limited use of his hands and face.
In August 2019, he was referred to an academic medical centre where he underwent the transplant surgery.
Two similar surgeries had been attempted earlier, but both were unsuccessful with one patient dying of complications and the other had to have their hands amputated after they did not thrive.
The doctors who performed on DiMeo said they delayed the announcement and jubilations because they wanted to make sure the transplants were not rejected before labelling it as a success.
Director of the Face Transplant Program, Eduardo Rodriguez, said, “We wanted to give him not only an operation that made him look better, but it ultimately had to work ideally, especially with the hands.”
DiMeo spent 45 days in intensive care after the surgery and a further two months in hospital, where he had to learn how to open his eyelids and use his new hands.
DiMeo said he could workout by himself now and could make breakfast.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime gift, and I hope the family can take some comfort knowing that part of the donor lives on with me,” he said. “My parents and I are very grateful that I’ve been given this second chance.”