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Transformed in 40 weeks, woman with a new face
by PETER ALLEN and FIONA MacRAE

With a hint of a smile playing on her lips and a steady, confident gaze, Isabelle Dinoire is almost unrecognisable from the woman pictured just ten months ago.

Then, in her first public outing after undergoing the world's first face transplant, her mouth drooped, her speech was slurred and her expression was startled.

Image
Facing the world: While make-up is hiding any remaining scars, there is little outward sign of the operation which took 15 hours and a 50-strong surgical team

Tellingly, the transplanted section, which included nose, lips and chin, seemed to sit uneasily with the rest of her face, with the difference in skin tone and texture clearly visible.

Now, ten months after she was first photographed, and a year after the pioneering partial transplant was carried out, the transformation is dramatic.

While make-up is hiding any remaining scars, there is little outward sign of the operation which took 15 hours and a 50-strong surgical team.

The Frenchwoman drinks plenty of her favourite red wine, eats well, smokes occasionally and has regained her happy smile.

British consultant plastic surgeon Peter Butler, who has been given the go-ahead to carry out the world's first full face transplant in London within months, said it was clear that muscles and nerves transplanted with the skin, lips, nose and chin were now functioning normally. "It is quite a remarkable recovery," he said.

Miss Dinoire, 39, left hideously disfigured after her pet labrador savaged her while she was unconscious after an overdose, said: "I can feel just about everything as I did before. It may be someone else's face, but when I look in the mirror, I see me.

"At the start I couldn't form certain words with my lips, but now I am understood wherever I go. I've found a new joie de vivre."

Giving her blessing to Mr Butler's patients, who will go through an even more complicated procedure in which the entire surface of the face will be replaced, she said: "There will be no regrets for the person who undergoes this operation.

"I wish them all the luck in the world. I have been saved. It's wonderful. It's a miracle somehow."

Professor Bernard Devauchelle, one of the surgeons who performed the partial transplant in Amiens, northern France, said Miss Dinoire had gradually regained sensation in her face.

Six months after the operation last November, she was as sensitive to touch and other stimuli, such as hot and cold, as anyone else.

"She feels hot and cold like you or me," he said. "She leads a pretty normal life. She goes for walks, does her housework, goes to restaurants, smokes, drinks, but not too much.

"We have made it very clear that a face reconstruction is also a social reconstruction. Of course her life will never be the same as it before, for hundreds of reasons.

"When she's content there's a lovely smile which you can see on her face. The emotions create an expression. When she’s happy, one can read it on her face." He added that he believed she was stronger emotionally now than before.

Before the operation, her savaged appearance was so shocking that people would stare and even recoil in horror. At home, she took down all the mirrors, so she did not frighten herself.

The last year has, however, been far from easy. Miss Dinoire, a mother of two, has had to deal with the psychological trauma of learning that her donated face was from a suicide victim. Her body also twice tried to reject the transplanted tissue.


Source Daily Mail