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Brigham and Women's Performs Nation's First Full Face Transplant

BOSTON (CBS) -- A Fort Worth man badly burned in an electrical accident received the nation's first full face transplant last week in Boston at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

WBZ-TV's Beth Germano reports

A team of more than 30 doctors, nurses and residents worked for more than 15 hours on Dallas Wiens' new face. They replaced his nose, lips, facial skin, facial muscles and nerves that provide sensation.

Wiens was injured in November 2008 when he was working on a boom lift near an electrical wire. A spotter below him indicated he was too close to the high line and as Wiens tried to lower the lift to the ground, the left side of his head came in contact with the wire. He was taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and admitted to the Burn Critical Care Unit.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens reports.


His family says doctors told them they did not think Wiens would survive. His family has since set up a Facebook page and website for Wiens, keeping everyone up-to-date on what's going on with him.

Now he has had more than 22 surgeries. His teeth and left eye have been removed. His right eye has been covered as doctors worked to replace facial and scalp muscle tissue. His lips do not move easily and his speech is difficult to understand. His family calls him "amazing."

The full facial transplant surgery was made possible through a donor, which had to be approved by the donor's family. Because the donor family wanted to remain anonymous the hospital was not releasing when the surgery was held.

Brigham and Women's Hospital provided video of the transplant

Dallas Wiens Face Transplant Footage by BWH Public Affairs on Vimeo

Surgery DW from BWH Public Affairs on Vimeo.

"This remarkable, anonymous gift is another example of the life-affirming power of organ and tissue donation," said Richard S. Luskin, president and CEO of New England Organ Bank.  "As always we are immensely grateful to the donor and the donor family for their generosity."

"Today's tremendous news marks a new milestone in Brigham and Women's legacy in transplant surgery. The pioneering achievement accomplished by the entire transplant team is a gift made possible by the most selfless act one human being can do for another, organ donation," said Dr. Betsy Nabel, president of Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, the chief surgeon, spoke with WBZ-TV's Lisa Hughes.

"Dallas always said after his injury now had choice, choose to get bitter, or choose to get better. His choice was to get better," said Wien's grandfather, Del Peterson, during a news conference at Brigham and Women's Hospital Monday.

Petersen said his grandson has talked with family by phone from his hospital bed and he is determined to get better and move on with life.

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a plastic surgeon and director of BWH's Burn Unit, said they were not able to restore Wiens' vision, but he does expect Wiens to regain sensation in portions of his face. Dr. Pomahac said Wiens will not look like himself, but he will also not look like the donor. Instead, he explained, the physicians shaped the donor face over Wiens' existing tissue.

"It's a miracle," said Petersen.

WBZ-TV's Peg Rusconi contributed to this report.

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