Jeremy Laurance: Learning to live with a new look

Share
Related Topics

It is three-and-a-half years since the world's first face transplant was carried out on Isabelle Dinoire, 41, who received the lips and chin of a dead woman, as well as part of her nose and cheeks, after being mauled by her dog in northern France.

Half a dozen similar operations have been carried out since but the radical surgery is far from being an established treatment for facial disfigurement.

Ms Dinoire, one of the few transplant patients who has agreed to be identified like Connie Culp, has spoken movingly about the difficulty of coming to terms with her new face following the transplant in November 2005.

"The hardest thing to accept was to have the inside of someone else's mouth. It wasn't mine, it was all soft, it was atrocious," she said.

On one occasion she described finding a hair growing from her chin where none had been before. She said she thought of her donor as a twin to whom she used to speak out loud in the early months after the operation. "You can see that [the hair] is yours, but at the same time that she is there. I am keeping her alive," she said.

She expressed the difficulty of learning to live with a new identity. "Before the operation, I expected my new face would look like me but it turned out that it was half me and half her. It takes an awful lot of time to get used to someone else's face."

The operation is controversial because it is cosmetic rather than life-saving, as in transplants of vital organs such as the heart or kidneys. There is the risk of complications and recipients must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives which increase the risk of cancer.

Against that, face transplant pioneers argue that people who are grossly disfigured are forced to hide themselves away and are unable to live a productive and high quality life in a society that judges people by their appearance.

The world's second face transplant was carried out by surgeons in China in 2006 on a farmer, Li Guoxing, who had the entire right side of his face torn off by a black bear in 2003. Doctors gave Mr Li, 30, a new nose, upper lip, cheek and eyebrow.

After a few months, he could eat, drink and talk and returned home. But he suffered multiple instances of rejection, and died, apparently of an infection, in 2008.

The most recent face transplant was carried out in France on a 30-year-old burns victim who received two new hands at the same time. French surgeons have performed four of the seven face transplants carried out around the world.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas