A patient dubbed ‘the man with three faces’ after becoming the first person to receive two face transplants has said he is getting used to his new identity.
Jerome Hamon underwent the world’s first full face transplant, including tear ducts and eyelids, in a procedure at a hospital outside Paris in July 2010.
But the 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. By November last year, the 43-year-old’s face, suffering from necrosis, had to be removed.
Hamon, who suffers from a genetic mutation which causes severely disfiguring tumours, remained in hospital without a face for two months before a compatible donor was found and a successful second transplant carried out.
Still recovering in hospital three months after his latest operation, he says he 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, it is hoped, will prevent his body rejecting the transplanted material.
‘I feel very well in myself,’ he told reporters 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.
Hamon was in hospital without a face for two months before a compatible donor was found and a successful second transplant carried out. He is pictured last week as he continues to recover from the procedure
It was a reunion for patient and doctor as it was Lantieri who carried out the world’s first full face transplant on Hamon eight years ago.
Hamon suffers from neurofibromatosis type 1, a genetic mutation which causes severely disfiguring tumours and related complications.
Staff at the hospital said they had been ‘blown away’ by Hamon’s ‘courage, his will, his strength of character in a tragic situation’.
Bernard Cholley, an anaesthetist, said that Hamon ‘never complained’ while waiting for a donor and was ‘even in a good mood’.
Eventually, a face donor was found for his second transplant, a 22-year-old man who had died hundreds of miles 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 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.