A 64-year-old Canadian man, who had half his face blown off in a hunting accident, became the oldest person to have a face transplant. This was the first surgery of its kind in the country.
Maurice Desjardins, from Gatineau, Quebec, was left disfigured in a hunting accident seven years ago that damaged his facial nerves, muscles, and bones.
A team that included nine surgeons and 100 medical staff led by Dr. Daniel Borsuk at Montreal’s Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont completed the 30-hour operation in May but announced it only on Wednesday.
The procedure was five years in the making as it required his jaws, teeth, lips, nose and face muscles and nerves to be replaced. Borsuk’s team planned, practiced, and waited for a suitable donor so they could transplant one man’s face onto another’s, Mens Health reported.
Desjardins underwent five reconstructive surgeries earlier, however, despite the best efforts of doctors, he was left in chronic pain and struggling with daily life. Surgeons created an air passage by making a hole in the front of his neck to his windpipe as he faced difficulty in breathing.
When Borsuk learned about it, he was convinced he could help. Recalling a long conversation he had with Desjardins and his wife, Gaétane, to explain his proposal, the doctor said, “I said, ‘Maurice, you could die on the table, or even right after the operation.’ He replied, ‘Do you think I have a life now?'”
“I am always being judged by others. I’d rather die than keep living like this. I don’t care what face I’m going to get, as long as I look like everybody else,” Desjardins told Borsuk, CBC News reported.
According to the doctors, the surgery was the last chance to restore a normal life for Desjardins and they are very pleased with the outcome of the surgery.
“This delicate operation is the result of years of concerted, meticulous work by an incredible team and the incredible bravery and cooperation of the patient and his family. Through the combination of science, technology, engineering and art we attempted to build on the knowledge and experience of the pioneers in the field to perform the best facial transplant possible for our patient,” Borsuk said.
According to a news release from the University of Montreal, the man has fully recovered the ability to breathe and has begun to chew with his new jaws, smell through his new nose and speak using his new lips.
“As a plastic surgeon, I know that, no matter large or small, injuries to the face have a particularly symbolic aspect and are closely linked to our identity. Facial disfigurement can have a detrimental effect on self-confidence and productivity, and therefore, this transplant offered immense hope and possibility in our patient,” Borsuk added.