Trading Faces | The Natural Result

Trading Faces

Dr. Kaufman

Dr. Kaufman

They made switching faces look pretty easy in that Nicolas Cage movie, but as it turns out, face transplants aren’t so simple in real life.  There have only been a handful of face transplants performed so far, but plastic surgeons seem to be getting more confident, so you may start hearing more about them in the future.
The first face transplant to get a lot of attention was the case of an American woman named Connie Culp, whose husband had shot her in the face with a shotgun.  (You may remember her from an ppearance on Oprah in which she said she forgave her husband and would be waiting for him when he got out of prison.)  Her relationship with her husband certainly sounds interesting, but what’s more interesting is that in 2008, doctors were able to replace 80% of her face using the face of a dead woman.  This surgery transformed her appearance, and, more importantly, returned to her the ability to smell, eat, and breathe on her own– all useful bodily functions.
Face transplants are difficult for the reasons you would expect– our faces are full of important stuff, such as sense organs.  It took a large team of doctors 22 hours to perform Culp’s surgery and she will remain on immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of her life to prevent her body from rejecting the new face.
After Culp was a 59-year old American man named James Maki.  He fell on the third rail in a subway station in Boston and severely disfigured his face.  For Maki, getting a new face meant getting his life back.  He said that people would scream and run away when they saw him– it made venturing outdoors a terrible experience for him.  No one wants to be treated that way, and getting a face transplant meant freedom from the hermetic life he had been forced into.
If surgeries like these become viable solutions rather than last-ditch efforts, more people will have the opportunity for a second chance at life, just like Maki and Culp got.