There have been fewer than 50 face transplants in the world since 2005, and only two people have undergone the procedure twice: an American woman, Carmen Tarleton, and a French man, Jérôme Hamon. In both cases, the recipients experienced profound immunological rejection, which is one of the enduring medical challenges of facial transplantation.

Hamon’s first face transplant, undertaken by a surgical team led by Laurent Lantieri, took place in 2010, after Hamon had lived with neurofibromatosis type 1 for many years, a condition that causes facial tumours. That face was rejected by Hamon’s body after he was given cold medicine that was incompatible with his immunosuppressant regime. In 2017, Hamon’s face had to be surgically removed. For two months, he lived without a face: no eyelids, no ears, no skin and no protection against microbial infection. After a new donor was found, a second face transplant was undertaken, though all Hamon’s blood needed to be replaced to prevent the possibility of another immunological reaction.

It is hard to conceive of the psychological and physical challenges that were undertaken by Hamon and his friends and family, the donor family, and the entire surgical team involved in his care. The second transplant received widespread media coverage. Today is the four-year anniversary of Hamon’s second face transplant and we send our very best wishes to him, and to everyone involved.

Please check the resources section of the AboutFace website to learn more about the ways my project works with patients, their families, and surgical teams to understand the psychological and social impacts of face transplants.

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