“When I woke up and was able to feel where I had features again–eyelids, a nose, and a mouth–I even said out loud that this should not be medically possible because it doesn’t seem like it should be.” For most people, waking up with basic facial features is an everyday event, but for Dallas Wiens, who has lived the last two years without a face, having just eyelids, a nose, and a mouth is a miracle.
Dallas Wiens is the first American to receive a full-face transplant. He lost his face in November 2008 when he was severely burned by a high voltage electrical line. He was only twenty-three years old. In March of this year, he underwent a fifteen-hour operation to receive a donor’s face—including the donor’s olfactory nerves. “We weren’t sure if I would be able to smell again and, if I could, how well it would work, but the olfactory nerves were fully intact so it’s as if there was no injury to begin with,” Dallas explains. “My favorite smell was the hibiscus that my nurse brought into my room… The smell of life, plant life, again. To know that I could smell a rose again really hit home.”
The return of his sense of smell was an added benefit. For Dallas, the simple ability to breathe through his nose normally again was an amazing gift in itself.
Images courtesy of Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas