1st Face Transplant Patient Describes "Miracle" Life

Dallas Wiens in town with his new wife to discuss the technology that changed his life

By Nesita Kwan
|  Thursday, Dec 5, 2013  |  Updated 7:35 AM EDT
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Dallas Wiens went from having no face after a horrible accident in 2008 to being the first man in the U.S. to get a full face transplant. Nesita Kwan reports.

Dallas Wiens went from having no face after a horrible accident in 2008 to being the first man in the U.S. to get a full face transplant. Nesita Kwan reports.

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Dallas Wiens went from having no face after a horrible accident in 2008 to being the first man in the U.S. to get a full face transplant.

In Chicago Wednesday with his new bride, Jamie, for the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Wiens said, "my entire life is a miracle."

"Running my hands over my face, I have eyebrows, eyelashes," he said. "Stubble is coming out." 

When Wiens received his face transplant and was able to touch it for the first time, he said "this shouldn't be medically possible." Three months later his daughter came to visit him. "She kissed me and I could feel it," he said.

Wiens and his wife both survived horrific burns in separate accidents. Wiens' face was burned off when he hit a high-voltage wire at his church. Jamie Wiens suffered hers in a car accident during which she was trapped for 23 minutes in a burning vehicle.

They attended Wednesday's convention because of a technology they said changed Wiens' life.

"In the end for tissue to live, it has to have blood supply arrive at new tissues," Brigham and Women's Hospital radiologist Dr. Frank Rybicki said. "There has to be connections."

Rybicki said Wiens' transplant depended on sufficient blood supply to support a new face. So before making a cut, surgeons needed a map of what was behind the damage.

In the end it meant success for Wiens, and now he's not alone. Doctors say his transplant has provided incredible information for others. For example, blood vessels can reroute on their own to parts of a newly transplanted face, such as the tongue.

"New roads are being blazed simply by studying my case," Wiens said.

The Wiens share another mission: to tell people of the dangers of being distracted by a cell phone.

Wiens said he looked at his cell right before he hit his head on the power lines that changed his life. Jamie Wiens said she was texting right before her accident.

"No text is worth your life," Wiens said.

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