A team of doctors from Montreal recently pulled off the first face transplant in Canada. Despite a few drawbacks, the patient is able to live a normal life after.
Maurice Desjardins was disfigured after a hunting accident in 2011. He was left with severe damage to the muscles, nerves and bones in his face which resulted in chronic pain. Only half of his face remained after the incident.
Dr Daniel Borsuk and his team of surgeons performed the high-risk procedure at Montreal’s Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital last year. The team successfully grafted a donor’s teeth, nose, jaw and cartilage onto Desjardins’ face.
However, right after the surgery, some complications ensued. Desjardins had issues eating and had to be fed with tubes. He then started to lose a lot of weight. Dr Borsuk in an interview said,
“I was in control during the graft but, afterwards, during the recovery time, I was no longer in control of anything.”
Desjardins’ wife had to care for him fulltime to make sure he got his medications. She had to give up her job, and that subsequently caused them to struggle financially. Apparently, Canada does not have financial aid for transplant patients.
Since the surgery, Desjardins will have to take powerful immunosuppressants for the rest of his life. The administered medication will help his body adapt to the transplant better. It also has a side effect that leaves him vulnerable to even the smallest infections.
This made the recovery process tedious as he had to keep going in and out of the hospital. He has had to spend about three more months in the hospital. In March 2019, he developed an infection of the digestive system called diverticulitis. A portion of his intestine became infected and then ruptured.
Because of the infection, he had to undergo another surgery where doctors attached a temporary colostomy bag that will collect his body waste while his intestine heals.
But in April 2019, things started looking up. Desjardins went two weeks without an infection. Even though he cannot close his mouth fully or make very coherent speeches, he is now making a better recovery.
So far, Desjardins has not struggled to accept his new physical identity. An expected reaction would be him being unfamiliar with what he sees in the mirror. But Desjardins has handled this well. He admits that, despite all the pains and difficulties, he has no regrets.
The world’s first partial face transplant on a living human was carried out in France in 2005.
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