By Jane Walker
A YOUNG Spanish man who had the world’s first full-face transplant four months ago appeared before cameras in Barcelona yesterday as he was discharged from hospital.
Identified only as Oscar, the 31-year-old farmer suffered dreadful facial disfigurement in a shooting accident five years ago which had left him unable to breathe, eat, swallow or speak properly.
After the failure of 10 operations to try to partially repair the damage, Oscar agreed with doctors that they should attempt a full-face transplant.
Dr Joan Pere Barret, head of the Vall d’Hebron hospital’s plastic surgery and burns unit, led a 30-strong medical team for the 24-hour groundbreaking operation on March 20th.
Dr Barret said yesterday that they had implanted complete facial skin and muscles, eyelids, nose, lips, upper and lower jaw, all his teeth, palate and cheekbones.
He said Oscar had suffered two partial rejections following his operation but had made good progress since. He can already move his eyebrows, upper eyelids, jaw and has grade III to IV movement in his cheeks – normal is grade V – and has recovered feeling in most of his face.
He will continue to have physiotherapy and speech therapy for the next 12 to 18 months to help him recover the use of his facial muscles and will have to take powerful anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life.
“He has been the best patient any doctor could have had, he has been very co-operative and has shown great physical and mental strength. It was very brave of him to come here today,” said Dr Barret.
Speaking with some difficulty,Oscar said: “I am very happy to be here. I want to express my gratitude to the hospital, the medical team and all donors in Spain, especially to the family of the man whose face I received.”