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Vermont Woman, Burned With Lye, Reveals New Post-Transplant Face

posted 1 May 2013, 12:13 by Mpelembe   [ updated 1 May 2013, 12:16 ]

Vermont woman who suffered a disfigured face and body after her estranged husband burnt her with Lye reveals a new face after a successful transplant.

 BOSTONMASSACHUSETTSUNITED STATES (MAY 1, 2013) (NBC) -  A successful face transplant surgery has given Carmen Blandin Tarleton a new face and a fresh lease on life.

The Vermont resident was left with a disfigured face and body in 2007 after her estranged husband doused her with industrial strength lye that burned through more than 80 percent of her body.

In February 2013, a team of 30 surgeons led by Dr. Bohdan Pomahac performed a full face transplant in a 17-hour procedure, replacing Tarleton's skin muscles, tendons and nerves with those of the donor.

"I have been on this incredible journey for the last six years, and receiving this wonderful gift ends this chapter in my life. What a great way to move forward with what life has for me now," Tarleton said at a press conference on Wednesday (May 1) at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Tarleton had undergone 55 surgeries before she made the decision to get a full face transplant.

The procedure, though ultimately successful, posed a high risk to her immune system, already compromised by the other drugs she was taking.

At Wednesday's press conference Pomahac described the transplant surgery as "a new frontier in what is immunologically possible."

"We knew that identifying a match for Carmen would be difficult and managing her rejection after the transplant could also prove challenging. But we developed a plan to address this. Together with our colleagues in transplant medicine we were able to work through our plan to get Carmen where she is today almost miraculously with no apparent sign of rejection. I believe I can safely say Carmen is the most immunologically complex patient that has ever received a composite issue transplant, meaning a face or a hand. This case is the first of its kind in that Carmen already had an active immune response against the donor tissue at the time oftransplantation," Pomahac said.

Tarleton said she was happy with the results of the surgery, calling it "heaven-sent"

"My hopes were to have the pain in my neck relieved and it was - instantly, when I woke up. That was my biggest desire - was to have all the pain in my neck relieved and I got that instantly. I know my face will improve over the next months and in the first year, so I am not anxious or anything of that not happening. I know that's going to happen," she said.

The physical transformation been accompanied by a change of heart - Tarleton says she's finally found happiness and forgiveness in her challenging journey. She also addressed the anger and pain felt by victims of Boston's marathon bombing.

"I want others to know that they need not give up on healing themselves when tragedy strikes, but instead they can make a choice to find the good and allow that to help them heal. Walking around with hate or misery in your heart is a choice, and we all can find our way to happiness," Tarleton said.

Tarleton will undergo several small follow-up surgical procedures in the coming months. Doctors expect her to gain control over the muscles in her face and for sensation to gradually return to her face.