A man in France has been the first person to ever receive two face transplants, reports the BBC. After Jérôme Hamon’s first transplant was rejected he underwent a second transplant three months ago and says that his recovery is going well. The transplants were necessary due to the tumors growing on his face caused by the condition neurofibromatosis type 1.
Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is the most common form of neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that affects approximately 1 in every 3,000 births. The symptoms of NF1 vary in severity between patients, and some may not appear for several years. The disease is characterized by light brown patches of skin and non-cancerous bumps on or under the skin called neurofibromas. In some cases the disease is associated with related conditions such as learning difficulties, high blood pressure, and, in rare cases, a form of cancer that affects nerve sheaths. NF1 is caused by a genetic mutation that leads to the unregulated growth of nerve tissues. There is not currently a cure for the condition, and treatment centers on monitoring and controlling symptoms through methods such as taking medication to lower blood pressure, therapy for behavioral issues, and surgery to remove tumors and correct bone growth.
Jérôme Hamon first underwent a facial transplant to treat the condition in 2010. That operation was a success, but after catching a common cold five years later in 2015 he was given antibiotics that reacted with the immunosuppressant drugs he was taking to prevent transplant rejection. This caused necrosis (cell death) to set in and the transplant to fail. Mr Hamon had to have his first face transplant removed, and remained living in the Georges-Pompidou Paris hospital for two months during which he could not speak, see, or hear – an ordeal that his doctors say required an amazing amount of courage.
In January 2016 a donor was found and Mr Hamon immediately accepted. Before the second transplant he had his blood cleaned to lower the risk of another rejection. The transplant itself was a success, although his recovery is still on going. It is now three months after Mr Hamon became the first person to ever have two face transplants, and his face is still very smooth and difficult to move. His facial features still need to be further aligned, but overall he remains optimistic. He spoke to news agencies from the hospital, saying,
“it’s good, it’s me.”