The man with 3 faces: Hamon receives 2nd face transplant
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Jerome Hamon became known as "the man with three faces" in April, when he was the first patient to undergo a second face transplant.
Dr. Laurent Lantieri of the Georges Pompidou hospital in Paris performed both of Hamon's face transplants, with the first one taking place in 2010 when the patient was in his mid-30s.
The intent of the procedure was to improve the quality of Hamon’s life. The patient suffers from neurofibromatosis type 1, a rare genetic condition that causes the growth of tumors along nerves in the skin and in other parts of the body.
The first transplant worked well for the first few years. Then, Hamon caught a common cold in 2015. He took a prescription drug to alleviate the symptoms of the cold, but the cold medication was incompatible with his immunosuppressant treatment for the face transplant.
Some of the transplanted tissues in Hamon’s face began to die. He began showing signs of chronic tissue rejection in 2016. His physicians registered him on the French Agency of Biomedicine’s national waiting list in October 2017.
In January, Lantieri had to remove the bookseller’s entire face, including his eyelids and lachrymal system. In fact, the doctors could leave only Hamon’s blue eyes.
This left the patient without a face. In interviews, Lantieri referred to his patient living without a face as being "the walking dead." Without skin, Hamon was at great risk for infections and in grave danger.
While the first transplant was to improve the quality of Hamon’s life, the second procedure was to save it.
Hamon lived for nearly three months without a face. He spent that time in a room at Georges-Pompidou hospital in Paris. During this time, Hamon was unable to see or speak.
He had limited hearing and could only communicate by tilting his head slightly. He could write a little. Lack of eyelids and lachrymal system left Hamon unable to blink or produce tears.
In interviews, Dr. Lantieri said that Jerome Hamon was an inspiration to all. He said the patient never complained, "even when he was in the dark with no face for three months."
A face donor was found in January, and surgeons carried out the second transplant shortly thereafter. The team of doctors worried that his body would reject the second face transplant, so they performed immunological therapy prior to the surgery.
Hamon spent a total of eight months in the hospital. Doctors report that Jerome Hamon is doing well and that he even took a weekend vacation in Brittany, a breathtaking cultural region in the northwest of France.
Surgeons across the globe have performed at least 39 face transplants since Isabelle Dinoire received the world’s first face transplant in November 2005. Dinoire died from surgical complications in 2016, after suffering transplant rejection and cancer caused by anti-rejection treatments.
Dinoire’s passing is a reminder that chronic rejection of vascularized composite allografts is a reality. Faces become distorted and dysfunctional over time.
Because full-face transplants are relatively new, with the first procedure taking place in 2010, doctors still do not know how long face transplants might last. They may be similar to kidneys at a 10- to 15-year lifespan. Hamon’s success promises the possibility of a second transplant, if necessary, as full-face transplant recipients age.
Hamon’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Laurent Lantieri, is a pioneer in the field of face transplantation. According to the biography listed on AO North America (AONA), Lantieri developed and implanted the first perforator microsurgical free flap in France.
He also worked extensively in the surgical management of plexiform neurofibromas. His team performed seven of the first 23 face transplants in the world.
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