Nation's first full face transplant recipient adjusts to life

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on June 21, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 22 at 4:28 PM

FORT WORTH - The Fort Worth construction worker who became the recipient of the nation's first full face transplant is settling back into life and making big plans for the future.

Dallas Wiens starts his day with a mouthful of pills designed to keep his body from rejecting his new face.

A face he feels more each day.

"Beside my temple and down I have light sensation and can feel my face being brushed by something," said Wiens. "I expected some sensation to occur, but it has already exceeded my expectations."

Wiens was badly disfigured in a life-threatening electrical accident in 2008. He received a face transplant in March.

"It's true that I've not seen the work that was done with my eyes," Wiens said as he talked about losing  his eyesight in the tragedy. "But as any individual who doesn't have sight will tell you, our hands paint as vivid a picture as looking at something does. And I have run my hands over my face on several occasions and I am thoroughly impressed with the quality of the work that was done and that it has adhered to my frame so well."

"I'm very happy with my facial hair," Wiens adds while stroking his beard.

The transplant also restored his nose and ability to breathe.

"Pretty amazing considering that I went two years without being able to do that at all." he said.

Wiens says he missed smelling his own cologne and the faint smell of orchids.

It was always the hope for sensation, not looks, that prompted Wiens to volunteer for the face transplant.

After the accident, he missed feeling his 4-year daughter Scarlett's sweet kiss.

"There's no describing what that means," he said about feeling his daughter's touch. "She tells me every day how handsome I am."

In the last month, he's developed greater control of his lips and speech.

Transplanted hair that was grey, has become darker and changed texture on its own, to blend with his own natural hair.

"It's changed color," Wiens said. "It changed color due to my hormones."

There have been so many amazing changes, that Wiens now spends much of his time writing a book on a computer with voice software.

And while he has not yet met the donor family, he says one day he would like to personally thank them.

"It will be very emotional," Wiens said. "There's no way to express what it means to me just to be able to stand with each one of them, cry with them. They have given me back a normal life."

Dallas Wiens will travel back to Boston in July to have another surgery, in part to tighten his sagging chin and lip.

He is also looking forward to getting teeth in the next year, so his speech will improve even more. Teeth will also help him chew food better. Wiens said he became a vegetarian about a year ago after his own research showed a vegetarian diet would help deter medication interactions.

And though he is blind now, he is convinced one day medicine will restore his sight.

Email: jstjames@wfaa.com

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