Man with three faces — a med­i­cal mir­a­cle

Khaleej Times - - FRONT PAGE -


40 Num­ber of face trans­plants through­out the world since the first was per­formed in 2005

paris — Jerome Ha­mon is get­ting used to his new soubri­quet ‘the man with three faces’.

He re­mains in a Paris hos­pi­tal, three months af­ter un­der­go­ing his sec­ond face trans­plant, but has quickly ac­cepted his new “iden­tity”.

His new face re­mains smooth and mo­tion­less, with his skull, skin and fea­tures yet to be fully aligned, a grad­ual process re­liant on im­muno­sup­pres­sant drugs which, hope­fully, will pre­vent his body re­ject­ing the trans­planted ma­te­rial.

“I feel very well in my­self,” the 43-year-old trans­plant re­cip­i­ent said last week as he con­tin­ues his re­cov­ery from the surgery which was car­ried out on Jan­uary 15 and 16.

“I can’t wait to get rid of all this,” he adds, speak­ing with dif­fi­culty of all the ma­jor treat­ment he has un­der­gone to be­come the first man to have re­ceived two face trans­plants.

This un­prece­dented feat was painstak­ingly car­ried out by the staff at the Georges-Pom­pi­dou Euro­pean Hos­pi­tal in Paris, and Lau­rent Lantieri, a pro­fes­sor of plas­tic surgery, who led the team through the multi-step pro­ce­dure. It was a strange re­union for pa­tient and doc­tor as it was Lantieri who car­ried out the world’s first full face trans­plant, in­clud­ing tear ducts and eye­lids, on Ha­mon at a hos­pi­tal out­side Paris in July 2010.

Ha­mon suf­fers from neu­rofi­bro­mato­sis type 1, a ge­netic mu­ta­tion which causes se­verely dis­fig­ur­ing tu­mours and re­lated com­pli­ca­tions.

His first face trans­plant in 2010 was a suc­cess. But that same year — in or­der to treat noth­ing more than a com­mon cold — he was given an an­tibi­otic in­com­pat­i­ble with his im­muno­sup­pres­sive treat­ment.

In 2016 he be­gan to dis­play signs of trans­plant re­jec­tion, and his new face de­te­ri­o­rated.

Last sum­mer Ha­mon was hos­pi­talised and in Novem­ber his face, suf­fer­ing from necro­sis, had to be re­moved.

He re­mained in hos­pi­tal with­out a face for two months, a very dif­fi­cult time, while a com­pat­i­ble donor was sought.

This ex­cep­tional case re­vealed an ex­cep­tional pa­tient.

Every­one at the hos­pi­tal “was blown away by Jerome’s courage, his will, his strength of char­ac­ter in a tragic sit­u­a­tion. While he was wait­ing he never com­plained, he was even in a good mood,” re­called Bernard Chol­ley, an anaes­thetist.

Even­tu­ally, a face donor was found, a 22-year-old man who had died hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres from Paris. Lantieri heard the news on a Sun­day in Jan­uary and the mas­sive lo­gis­ti­cal and med­i­cal oper­a­tion was swiftly launched.

The donor face was trans­ported as quickly as pos­si­ble by road on the Mon­day to the Georges-Pom­pi­dou hos­pi­tal in Paris.

By late morn­ing the fol­low­ing day, Ha­mon was be­ing wheeled back to his hos­pi­tal bed fol­low­ing the ground-break­ing surgery, with his med­i­cal team notic­ing en­cour­ag­ing signs of good colour in his new face.

The oper­a­tion an­swers a key ques­tion for Lantieri and the rest of the

The first trans­plant I ac­cepted im­me­di­ately. I thought ‘this is my new face’ and this time it’s the same.” Jerome Ha­mon, trans­plant re­cip­i­ent

med­i­cal world; “Can we redo a fa­cial trans­plant? Yes, we can re-trans­plant and this is what you get!”

To avoid any re­jec­tion, the pa­tient un­der­went three months of spe­cial blood treat­ment prior to the trans­plant, nephrol­o­gist Eric Thervet ex­plained.

De­spite all the anx­i­ety and suf­fer­ing, Ha­mon is a happy man again.

“The first trans­plant I ac­cepted im­me­di­ately. I thought ‘this is my new face’ and this time it’s the same,” he ex­plained. —“If I hadn’t ac­cepted this new face it would have been ter­ri­ble. It’s a ques­tion of iden­tity... But here we are, it’s good, it’s me.”

There have now been around 40 face trans­plants through­out the world since the first was per­formed on French­woman Is­abelle Di­noire in north­ern France in 2005. —


French medicine pro­fes­sor Lau­rent Lantieri with his pa­tient Jerome Ha­mon. —


A screen show­ing dif­fer­ent steps of Jerome Ha­mon’s surgery on April 13, 2018 at the Ho­pi­tal Europeen Georges-Pom­pi­dou in Paris. Ha­mon is the first man in the world to twice un­dergo a face trans­plant af­ter flu tablets in­com­pat­i­ble with his anti-re­jec­tion treat­ment led to the first at­tempt to fail. —

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