For seven years, Maurice Desjardins lived in excruciating pain after a hunting accident left his face severely disfigured. At 65, he’s become the oldest person to have a face transplant, and it’s restored his ability to do simple everyday activities like chew his food, according The National Post.
The Canadian man was disfigured in a 2011 hunting accident that damaged his facial nerves, muscles, and bones. A team that included nine surgeons and 100 medical staff led by Dr. Daniel Borsuk at Montreal’s Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont completed the remarkable 30-hour operation. The procedure was five years in the making, as Borsuk’s team planned, practiced, and waited for a suitable donor so they could transplant one man’s face onto another’s.
The hospital performed the operation in May, but just announced it on Wednesday.
“This delicate operation is the result of years of concerted, meticulous work by an incredible team and the incredible bravery and co-operation of the patient and his family,” Borsuk said at a at news conference, according to CBC News.
To perform this complex procedure, one group of surgeons removed the face from a recently deceased donor. It took 12 hours. At the same time, another set of surgeons removed Borsuk’s face, leaving only his eyes, upper eyelids and forehead — a 17-hour process, The National Post reported.
Their efforts gave Desjardins the one thing he wanted most: to spend time with his granddaughter free from the stares of strangers.
“Already, he’s leading more of a normal life,” Borsuk said at the news conference. “He comes through to visit me every week and in the waiting room, nobody looks at him. They used to always stare at him, (but now) he’s just another face in the crowd.”
Desjardins spent two months recovering in the hospital before transferring to a rehabilitation facility. Prior to the operation, Desjardins had five reconstructive surgeries, but was still unable to eat, breathe, or smell properly, according to La Presse. Now, the 65-year-old grandfather is able to swallow, chew, and even smile. He’s still unable to speak, but he’s in the process of relearning the skill, according to CBC News.
Desjardins will take immunosuppressants medications to reduce the risk of his body rejecting the transplanted face.
The first full partial face transplant was performed in France in 2005, according to Royal Free London. Since then, 40 partial or full face transplants have been performed worldwide.
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