Advances in microsurgical techniques make life-changing miracles possible
The first face transplant was on a nine-year-old girl in India, in 1994, whose hair braids got caught in a farm grass cutting machine that pulled her head in and amputated her scalp and face. Thinking quickly, her parents saved the scalp and face in a plastic bag and rushed their unconscious child to a hospital where one of India’s top microsurgeons reconnected the arteries and replanted the skin.
Although she was left with muscle damage and scarring around the edges where the skin had been sutured back on, the girl, Sandeep Kaur, ten years later trained to become a nurse at the same hospital at which her operation was done, demonstrating that it is not what happens to someone in their life that defines it, but, rather, what they do with their life as a result of what happens.
In December of 2008, as reported by CNN, a woman in Cleveland underwent America’s first full face transplant in a 22-hour surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. It was the most extensive face transplant so far, the first facial transplant known to have included bones.
The patient could not eat or breathe on her own due to a traumatic injury several years before. She could not taste or smell and had trouble speaking. She had profound deformity in the center of her face, and was missing her right eye and upper jaw. After receiving the nose, cheeks, upper jaw and facial tissue of a female cadaver, her progress, as reported by FoxNews.com, is considered “astonishing” and her doctors are “cautiously optimistic.”
Face transplants have been possible, in theory, for a number of years. To date, seven face transplants have been reported worldwide. These include a 38-year-old in France whose dog ripped her face to shreds, a man in China who was attacked by a bear, and a man in France who suffered from the same disease as John Merrik, the Elephant Man.
Advances in medicine like these represent continued opportunities for employment for those with appropriate training.