After a horrific attack that left her disfigured, and a transplant that started rejecting her, Carmen Tarleton has become the second person globally and the first person in the United states to receive a second face transplant.
The operation took place last month, with Tarleton expected to be able to resume her normal routine.
For the second time in a decade, a New Hampshire woman has a new face. The woman, whose face was disfigured in an attack, became the first American and the second person globally to have the procedure a second time after her first transplant began to fail. https://t.co/79kEpvXYMw
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 7, 2020
After her previous transplant started to fail last year, Tarleton and her doctors started reviewing options for a second procedure. Transplants in general are tricky, due to the nature of the human body to be averse to foreign organs.
Skin is considered the largest organ of the human body.
Organ donors and recipients are vetted to ensure the best possible match to reduce the possibility of this, but the patient will still be taking medications to improve compatibility for years, if not the rest of their life.
Despite this, Tarleton was determined to try the transplant again.
Let's kick off this weekend with some AMAZING news! Carmen Tarleton has received her second face transplant and it looks to be a much better match than her first! After 20 hours of surgery…way to go, Dr. Pomahac & team 💙 Click below to read more ⬇️https://t.co/vkW0sDC4vf
— National Academy of Future Physicians (@FutureDocsNow) August 7, 2020
God bless Carmen Tarleton. A truly amazing person. https://t.co/YHNil9YDzk
— Eddie on Watch (@EdDadakis) August 7, 2020
— tater_35 (@tater_35) August 9, 2020
I am amazed at the medical procedures that save people’s lives. I wish her peace and strength for this new journey.
— Sissy (@Sissy771960) August 8, 2020
Tarleton received her first transplant after her ex-husband attacked her and burned her entire body in industrial strength lye in 2007. In 2013, she was able to get her first face transplant surgery.
Things seemed to work well for a time, but last year, doctors found that her donor face’s blood vessels were closing off, killing the skin. Despite how that sounds, this is something to be expected.
Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, one of Tarleton’s surgeons, told the Boston Globe last year:
“There are so many unknowns and so many new things we are discovering. It’s really not realistic to hope faces are going to last [the patient’s] lifetime.”
Dr. Pomahac wasn’t sure initially if a second transplant was the right choice. He and his team suggested reconstruction surgery instead.
But Tarleton convinced him of the improvement she felt with the first transplant. This time though, the doctors found a much better match to hopefully reduce the effects of rejection.
And it seems to work very well for her.
She told the Associated Press:
“I’m elated. The pain I had is gone. It’s a new chapter in my life.”
“I’ve been waiting for almost a year. I’m really happy. It’s what I needed. I got a great match.”
AP Exclusive: Woman is 1st in US to get 2nd face transplant (from @AP)
What a time in which we live. 40 ppl worldwide have had this surgery. Amazing https://t.co/ximFa9EGZH
— Chris attwood (@Chrisattwood61) August 8, 2020
— Avocat-Kaush (@killerkaush) August 7, 2020
I agree. The best I have seen too.
— Carlson Craft (@CraftCarlson) August 7, 2020
Whoa. Can’t imagine getting used to a different face let alone two! https://t.co/qaBiKU7sQQ
— Kirstin Brainard (@kbrainNP) August 8, 2020
Tarleton’s husband beat her with a bat and burned her body in lye in 2007. Over 80% of her body was covered in burns, and she had lost most of her vision.
In the time since, the face transplant and cornea implants have helped restore some functionality, but these aren’t permanent fixes.
In 2018, her cornea implant failed, leaving her totally blind. Her sister raised money on GoFundMe for expenses for the possibility of a new procedure to fix her eyesight.
Despite everything that has happened, Tarleton has remained an incredibly positive and optimistic person.
She wrote a book in 2013 called Overcome: Burned, Blinded and Blessed about her life and experience and hopes to resume inspirational speaking engagements after her recovery.