Fort Worth man gets a new face... and a new beginning

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on May 9, 2011 at 5:00 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 10 at 8:43 AM

In March, Dallas Wiens entered Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston as the man without a face.

Two months later, the 26-year-old former construction worker from Fort Worth is leaving the hospital with a new face — including lips, eyebrows, and a beard.

Wiens revealed his new look at the Boston hospital on Monday, saying says inside and out, he is forever changed and grateful.

"There are no words that can really describe the depth of my gratitude or love that I have for the donor family," he said. "The choice that they made has — in a very real, very great way — changed my life and my daughter's, and so from the bottom of my heart — and I know from the bottom of hers — we want to thank you very much."

Flanked by his doctors at a news conference, Wiens also thanked his "angels" — the nurses and doctors who saved his life at the burn unit of Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. He also thanked UT Southwestern plastic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Janis, who has presided over many reconstructive surgeries.

"I think this really opens up an immense amount of doors and represents hope where maybe fore there was none," Dr. Janis said.

Dallas Wiens' face suffered catastrophic injuries in an electrical accident in 2008.

During a 15-hour surgery in March, Wiens became the nation's first full face transplant. Doctors replaced not only his face, but the underlying nerves and part of a nose bone.

The result is that Wiens can now breathe on his own, smell, and feel.

A big motivation for undertaking the monumental surgery was feeling his daughter's kiss. That was a goal accomplished last week, when three-year old Scarlette saw her father's face for the first time.

"She was amazed, and she actually said, 'Daddy, you're so handsome!'" Wiens said. "The injury didn't faze her and the transplant didn't faze her. To her, I'm still 'Daddy.' And that in itself is an amazing gift."

Though still blind, doctors say they haven't ruled out a future surgery that might restore sight to Wiens' sole remaining eye. He lost the other in the electrical accident.

Wiens is looking forward to returning to Fort Worth, and gaining even better control over his face, and perhaps going to college.

But, most of all, he wants to lead a normal life, as Scarlette's father.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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