- Jerome Hamon of France is the first person in the world to receive a second face transplant, something that’s led French media to refer to him as the “man with three faces.”
- Hamon’s first transplant needed to be replaced when his body started to reject it six years after he received it.
- Organ transplants always come with the risk that the immune system will react to them.
- Fortunately, Hamon’s second face transplant seems to have been a success so far.
Frenchman Jerome Hamon received his third face earlier this year.
The transplant procedure began in the early afternoon on January 15 and ended the next morning, according to a statement from Georges Pompidou hospital in Paris, where the procedure was done. But first, Hamon needed to have all of the blood in his body replaced. That monthlong procedure was necessary so doctors could remove antibodies that could have potentially caused his body to reject the face.
It’s a medical first for a patient to receive a second face transplant, which answers an important question of whether or not a second face transplant is possible. Many organ transplants fail after something causes the body to reject them after a certain amount of time. Now we know that when it happens with a face, it’s possible for a patient to again get a new one.
The first face transplant happened in France in 2005.
In 2010, while in his 30s, Hamon received his second face in a surgery performed by Dr. Laurent Lantieri at Georges Pompidou hospital. Hamon has a genetic condition that disfigured his face with tumours. He received that first transplant from a 63-year-old organ donor.
With any transplant there’s always the risk that the immune system will recognise the foreign object and react against it, but immunosuppressive drugs helped prevent that from happening. His body accepted the new face.
But in 2015, Hamon caught a cold. A doctor prescribed medication that interfered with the anti-rejection drugs he’d been taking, and in 2016, it started to show signs of rejection. By November of 2017, tissue had started to die on the face, so Lantieri removed it.
For the next months, Hamon was in a state that Lantieri described to the Associated Press as like “the walking dead.” He had no ears, no eyelids, no skin, could barely hear, and couldn’t talk or eat.
“If you have no skin, you have infections,” Lantieri told the AP. “We were very concerned about the possibility of a new rejection.”
Then, thanks to a new compatible organ donor, a new face became available for transplant.
And fortunately, after months of preparation and hours of surgery, the new face took. The face has yet to fully align with his skull, which will happen over time.
But for now, Hamon says he’s doing well. He reportedly spent a recent weekend in Brittany, located in northwest France. French media reportedly calls him the “man with three faces.”
Hamon feels like he’s lost a few decades as well, the AP reported he said on French TV.
“I’m 43. The donor was 22. So I’ve become 20 years younger,” he said.
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