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New Hampshire woman first undergoes two full-face transplants in America

She suffered her first face transplant in 2013, but last year it began to fail.

According to an Associated Press report, Carmen Blandin Tarleton became the first American ever to receive a second full face transplant when she underwent a 20-hour surgery last month at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“The pain I had is gone,” she told AP about the second face transplant. “It’s a new chapter in my life. I’ve been waiting for almost a year. I’m really happy. It’s what I needed. I got a great match.”

To get to this point, Tarleton had traveled a rough path. Her strangled husband broke into her home in Vermont in 2007 and doused her in industrial-strength lye, burning 80% of her body. She was placed into a medically induced coma after the traumatic attack and underwent 38 operations over the course of three months. She then had 17 further surgeries over a period of five years, including some to restore her eyesight. After a thorough review, she was approved for her first full-face transplant in 2011, and the surgery occurred in 2013 when a suitable donor was found.

“I feel great appreciation and gratitude for the tremendous gift that I’ve been given,” she said after the first face transplant. “This greatly improves my quality of life and physical comfort level.”

For six years, the first operation was a success but then it started to fail. The Associated Press reports that she began to experience tightness, pain, and blood flow loss which prompted her last October to pursue a second transplant.

All operations were conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, which describes itself as “a world leader in promoting and performing this lifegiving procedure.”

“We describe face transplant surgery as a life-giving procedure because it has the potential to dramatically improve, i.e., restore, both a patient’s mental and physical health,” the hospital writes. “Conventional facial reconstruction methods, which are always considered first, do not tend to provide optimal results for patients with extensive facial deformities. Face transplant surgery, however, has the potential to deliver these desired functional and aesthetic benefits.”

Tarleton said she was “elated” with the second transplant but it’s going to take some time to get used to that.

“It is strange. I am not going to lie,” she said. “I’ll have to get used to it. My sister will have to get used to it. It takes a while for my friends and family to get used to what I look like now.”

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