- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2006

AMIENS, France — The Frenchwoman who received the world’s first partial face transplant showed off her new features to the public yesterday, saying in a heavily slurred voice that she now looks “like everyone else” and hopes to resume a normal life.

Isabelle Dinoire’s speech was difficult to understand, but she explained how she was disfigured by a dog bite last year, and she thanked the family of the brain-dead female donor who gave her new lips, a chin and nose.

A fine, circular scar was still visible where the face tissue was attached in the 15-hour operation in Amiens on Nov. 27.

“I have a face like everyone else,” Mrs. Dinoire said at her first press conference since the groundbreaking surgery. “A door to the future is opening.”

Mrs. Dinoire, who is in her late 30s, appeared to have great difficulty moving or even closing her mouth, which often hung open. But she said that she was regaining sensation.

“I can open my mouth and eat. I feel my lips, my nose and my mouth,” she said.

During the press conference, while one of her surgeons was speaking, she lifted a cup to her lips and appeared to drink.

In terms of coloring, the match between her own skin and the graft was remarkable. When she laughed, she was able to slightly lift a corner of her mouth, but appeared unable to bring her lips together to form a full smile. When she talked, her lips did not move.

Doctors said Mrs. Dinoire had trouble saying letters, such as b and p, that require pursing her lips, but they expect some improvement over time.

She said she was pursuing physical therapy and noted that she will have to continue taking drugs to stop her body from rejecting the donated tissue. Yet, she looked forward to the future and said she is eager to return home.

“I expect to resume a normal life,” she said.

Her doctors said they have asked French health authorities for permission to perform five more face transplants. Dr. Jean Michel Dubernard said they want “to give this operation to many, many other people in France and in the world.”

Mrs. Dinoire, a divorced mother of two teenage daughters, spoke frankly about the attack in May by her Labrador retriever. She said she was wrestling with personal problems at the time, had had a trying week and “took some drugs to forget,” which knocked her out. She said she was passed out when the dog bit her.

“When I woke up, I tried to light a cigarette, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t hold it between my lips,” she said. “That’s when I saw the pool of blood, and the dog next to me. I looked at myself in the mirror, and there, horrified, I couldn’t believe what I saw — especially because it didn’t hurt. Ever since this day, my life has changed.”

The dog was euthanized.

She said she “accepted immediately” when her surgeons suggested the transplant. But the procedure did not restore the way she looked before the dog bit her.


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