A woman who lost her face after her ex-husband violently attacked her by pouring industrial-strength Lye over her has received a face transplant.
Carmen Tarleton, 44, who wrote a book about her experience, is happy with her new face. “My spirits are high and I feel really good and happy,” she said.
It was a lengthy and difficult procedure, consisting of two dozen doctors at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. They worked for 15 hours to give her new facial skin, as well as new neck skin, a nose, lips, facial muscles, arteries and nerves.
“This is a momentous opportunity in my life and I want to convey to my donors family what a great gift I’ve been given,” she said. “I will do everything in my power to ensure a successful outcome.”
Her doctors expect her to regain much of the same facial abilities she had prior to the attack.
“I think she looks amazing, but I’m biased,” lead surgeon Dr. Bohdan Pomahac said. They have not yet released images of her new face.
He said she was “probably out of the woods” in terms of vascular issues leading to the face not taking hold.
“Everyday we enjoy walking by her and seeing her getting better but we are also thinking constantly what could go wrong,” he said. “There is no eureka moment, it’s really a few months later when the return of function comes and the patient is doing well and we are beyond most of the risks.”
“She will not be completely normal but what we will see is 80 percent of normal function, 75 percent, it depends on the patient, and she still had residual movement...so she should have a better result than someone who had completely nothing.”
With any complex surgery, healing takes time, and this one is no different.
“Return of sensation will take about three months, motor function about 3-6 months and she’ll have a full return of functionality after a year or so. Slow improvements typically continue afterwards as well,” he said.
After the attack, Tarleton underwent 38 surgeries in the first 90 days, and 17 since then. She is finally ready to move on with her life now that she has completed the transplant.
“I feel great appreciation and gratitude for the tremendous gift I’ve been given,” she said in a statement. “I want to thank everyone at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I also want to acknowledge my family for their support and love. My sister and mother have been especially dedicated to my care and my daughters. We are all excited to move into a new chapter of our lives together.”
Tarleton found that positivity was the only thing that would get her through the terrifying tragedy.
In her book, ‘Overcome: Burned, Blinded and Blessed,’ she retells the story of the attack and explains she feels more blessed now than before the incident.
“When life gives you a big negative situation like I’d been through, if you can get through that, you can really find all of the blessings and all of the positive things that can come out of that,” she said. “And I found so much that I would not go back. I’m so much more blessed than I was then.”