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Face transplant patient ventures out in public

/ Source: The Associated Press

The woman who received a new nose, chin and mouth in a groundbreaking transplant operation in November has taken strolls in public without drawing stares, her surgeon said in an interview published Wednesday.

The world’s first partial face transplant patient is doing well and is focused on the future — the prospect of returning home from the hospital and restarting normal life, Dr. Bernard Devauchelle told Le Courrier Picard, a regional newspaper in northern France. Because of privacy laws, the woman can be identified only as Isabelle.

The 38-year-old divorced mother of two received her new features from a brain-dead donor on Nov. 27. She was mauled by her pet Labrador last year, leaving her with severe injuries that her doctors said made it difficult for her to speak and eat.

Now, she is taking walks, riding a bike, chatting and eating, Devauchelle said.

“Every day, with her face uncovered, she passes by people who don’t necessarily recognize her,” Devauchelle was quoted as saying. He added that she has gone out in public and tested people’s reactions.

“She went walking to buy magazines without anyone noticing her,” the surgeon said. “That’s perhaps the best proof of real integration, even if when you look (at her), you realize that there is not something totally normal about her face’s mobility. But there is a certain expressiveness that is slowly coming back.”

The patient will continue to shuttle between hospitals in Lyon and Amiens for treatment, her psychiatrist has said.

Devauchelle was quoted as saying that his team was drawing up plans for five more face transplants, although he added that he did not have any urgent cases.

“I know that cases will appear and we will make a selection,” he said.