BOSTON - Walking proudly in front of reporters and cameras, Carmen Blandin Tarleton shows off her new face.
The 44-year-old mother of two received a face transplant in February of this year after being burned with industrial strength lye by her now ex husband.
Tarleton said the transplant instantly relieved the pain she suffered in her neck area.
"That was my biggest desire - was to have all the pain in my neck relieved and I got that instantly. I know my face will improve over the next months and in the first year, so I am not anxious or anything of that not happening. I know that's going to happen," she said in a media conference.
"So it's just a heaven sent - I'm so much more comfortable today than I have ever been in the last six years," she added.
A team of doctors and surgeons worked for about 17 hours to complete the surgery. The lead transplant surgeon said Tarleton's case was special because her immune system had already rejected the donor tissue at the time of transplant.
"Together with our colleagues in transplant medicine we were able to work through our plan to get Carmen where she is today almost miraculously with no apparent sign of rejection," said transplant surgeon Dr Bohdan Pomahac.
Doctors say Tarleton will eventually gain control over her face muscles and sensation will gradually return to her face.
The successful transplant is a happy ending to what had been a tragic tale. In 2007, Tarleton was viciously attacked by her then-husband, Herbert Rodgers, and had industrial-strength lye poured onto her face.
Believing that Tarleton was seeing another man, Rodgers flew into a rage and went to their house looking for that man. He encountered Tarleton instead and ended up directing his anger at her, hitting her with a bat and pouring lye from a squeeze bottle onto her face.
Burned by love
Burned by love
Lye is a strong alkali which is capable of causing chemical burns, permanent injuries or scarring and blindness upon contact.
The former transplant nurse tried to crawl to a shower to wash away the chemical which was eating into her face, but by then it had already destroyed her face.
Two years later, Rodgers pleaded guilty to maiming Tarleton in exchange for a prison sentence of at least 30 years.
As for Tarleton, she has gone through 55 excruciating surgeries during the past five years. In the latest surgery, a team of more than 30 surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses worked on her for 17 hours.
The complex surgery was to replace her skin, muscles, tendons and nerves with that of a new face.
The face itself was donated by Cheryl Denelli Righter - a woman from Massachusetts who died of a sudden stroke.
Tarleton will soon be able to regain sensation on her face when he new face settles down and the nerves connected during the surgery begin to regrow. However, she will not regain her sight as she is legally blind.
Additional information added in by YourHealth, AsiaOne.