Dallas Wiens' face before and after the procedure   (Source:
Dallas Wiens obtains facial structures, sensation and movement through the 15-hour procedure

A Texas man who endured severe electrical burns has received the first full face transplant in the United States, and is ready to go home to his family after months of recovery. 

Dallas Wiens, 26, was injured in November 2008 while volunteering at his church. While painting the church, his head came too close to the high-voltage power line above, and electrical burns caused him to lose nearly his entire face. He was in a medically induced coma for 90 days following the accident, where doctors performed several surgeries on Wiens. 

Wiens survived the burns and was able to leave the intensive care unit, but needed to regularly seek treatment from Dr. Jeffrey Janis of Parkland Hospital and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. 

Janis then contacted Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, who is the Burn Unit director at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts. Pomahac has previous experience with patients like Wiens, having performed a partial face transplant in the past. But never before had he performed a full face transplant.  

In fact, a full face transplant had never been accomplished in the United States at that point. The closest example would be Connie Culp from Ohio, who received a transplant of more than 80 percent of her face in December 2008 after her husband shot her in 2004. In 2005, the first partial face transplant occurred in France, and in 2010, a patient referred to as "Oscar" received the first full face transplant ever in Spain. 

In mid-March, Wiens underwent a 15-hour full face transplant, marking the first ever full face transplant in the U.S. He received a donor nasal structure, nose, lips, forehead and facial skin as well as muscles and nerves for movement and feeling. His face did not look the same as it once did, and it did not resemble the donor either due to the shape of Wiens' skull and the addition of skin, fat and muscle, but Wiens was happy to have facial features and certain senses again.  

"When I woke up, and I was able to feel I had features again -- eyes and a nose and a mouth -- I even said out loud that this could not be medically possible," said Wiens. "But here I am today." 

Right now, Wiens can feel pressure on his face. As time goes by, he will gradually be able to start moving his lips and face and feel light on his facial skin. Janis notes that this may take about six to nine months. Wiens is also able to speak a little bit, but this will improve over time as well. 

More good news for Wiens is that his facial skin is capable of growing facial hair. Before the electrical burns, Wiens' signature look included a goatee. So even though his face does look different, he can feel more at home in his new skin with the goatee he's always had. 

But to Wiens, the most important outcome of this procedure was to regain feeling in his face so that he could feel his 4-year-old daughter, Scarlette, kiss him again. Scarlette was Wiens' main motivation while undergoing such a pioneering surgical procedure, and after she saw him with the new face, she confirmed for Wiens that the lengthy process was worth it by telling him he was handsome.

For the time being, the only sense Wiens cannot obtain is sight due to the lack of technology. But Pomahac noted that this could change in the future and that he expects a large amount of growth in this area of the medical field. In fact, there is another patient waiting to undergo the same procedure as Wiens via a Department of Defense grant, which paid for Wiens' surgery. 

While Wiens now has to take medication for the rest of his life and still see Pomahac and Janis for follow-ups, he is glad to have had the opportunity to change his life, and is now ready to go back to Texas to spend time with his daughter and continue his education.

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