Face Transplant Update: 'It Will Never Be Me'
In the months since she received the world's first face transplant in November 2005, Isabelle Dinoire has done her best to keep a low profile. For one thing, the intense media attention that came with her groundbreaking surgery seemed to overwhelm her. And as one of her doctors acknowledged, she was initially self-conscious about her post-operative scars and her drooping lower lip. But in an interview this month with the French newspaper Le Monde, Dinoire, 40, sounded like a woman at last feeling better about herself and her new face. "I have returned to the planet of human beings—those with a face, a smile, facial expressions that let them communicate," she told the paper. "I am alive again."
As she made clear, the road back from her gruesome accident, in which her Labrador-mix unaccountably mauled her face as she slept in May 2005, has been a tough one. She described the strange sensation when she first felt her new face after the operation. "It was like pins and needles in my cheeks and chin, almost like bolts of electricity," she said. She suffered temporary setbacks when her body twice tried to reject the tissue, which had been donated by the family of a woman who had committed suicide. ("I will thank them all my life," Dinoire said of the donor's family; a cast was made of her face from which doctors made a synthetic mask that was reattached to her body for burial.) Dinoire continues to receive physical therapy to improve the movement in her features but says that puckering her lips for a kiss remains difficult. A single mom and a former factory worker who lives in Valenciennes, Dinoire has been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars for the rights to her story, proposals she is still mulling. While she is pleased with how far she has come, the sense of what she lost is never far from her mind. As she told Le Monde, "A part of me and my identity disappeared forever. And I have precious memories of what I was."
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