- Maurice Desjardins, 65, received a face transplant in May, years after a hunting accident damaged his face.
- It was the first face transplant to happen in Canada.
- Desjardins is reportedly the oldest face transplant recipient in the world.
A 65-year-old man in Canada received a face transplant earlier this year, becoming the oldest person the world to undergo the surgery, Canada’s National Post reported on September 12. It was also the first face transplant performed in Canada.
Maurice Desjardins’s face was injured in a hunting accident seven years ago. Over time, doctors attempted to fix the damage with reconstructive surgeries, but Desjardins was still in chronic pain, could not eat properly, and had to breathe through a hole in his windpipe, the Post reported.
Eventually, he was referred to Dr. Daniel Borsuk, a plastic surgeon at Montreal’s Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, who suggested a face transplant.
So far, 41 face transplants have been performed worldwide, the National Post reported. Two major transplants have already made headlines this year. Last month, 22-year-old Katie Stubblefield was announced as the youngest face transplant recipient in the US. And in April, Jérôme Hamon, 43, of France, was reported to be the first person in the world to receive two face transplants, after his body rejected his first face.
The complex procedure comes with significant risks. There was a chance Desjardins could die because of blood loss in the operating room. Recipients must also take powerful immune-suppressing drugs to prevent rejection of the new face, and these medicines increase the risk of cancers, infections, diabetes, and kidney disease, the Post report added.
But Desjardins wanted to proceed anyway, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported.
“I am always being judged by others. I’d rather die than keep living like this,” he said before the surgery, according to the CBC. “I don’t care what face I’m going to get, as long as I look like everybody else.”
After five years of planning, a face finally became available when the family of a brain-dead man consented to donate his organs. It took 30 hours, a team of nine surgeons, and more than 100 other medical support staff to complete the procedure, the National Post reported. And it wasn’t just the donor’s skin being transplanted – the surgeons had to successfully remove the donor’s jaw, teeth, nose, and cartilage, too.
But it was a success. When Desjardins first saw his reflection after the surgery, he still couldn’t speak, but he reacted with a thumbs up, the CBC reported.
The transplant was first announced in September, several months into Desjardins’s extensive rehabilitation process, which is still ongoing.
“The first year is quite difficult,” Borsuk said in an interview with CBC. “There’s a lot of challenges that he has to overcome, [like] relearning to use the muscles, that’s going to take some time … We’re only four months out. It’s going to take another eight months or so before he can actively move his lips and smile better … So he has a lot of rehabilitation to go through, but this is the most courageous and the nicest man that you could meet.”
You can see Desjardins’s before-and-after photos in the report from the CBC.
Hôpital Maisonneuve -Rosemont did not immediately return INSIDER’s request for comment.
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