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Dr. Kim ReportingThe first post-surgery words of a woman who underwent the world's first partial face transplant were "merci," according to one of her doctors.
The 38-year-old woman, whose identity has not been disclosed, was mauled by a dog in May, leaving her with severe facial injuries that her doctors said made it difficult for her to speak and eat.
The woman's face was severely disfigured in a dog attack. Her nose, lips and chin were so badly damaged she had trouble speaking and eating. So doctors decided to perform what may be the world's first face transplant.
In the 1997 film "Face Off", a face transplant allowed an undercover agent played by John Travolta to assume the identity of a major terrorist. That's Hollywood science fiction.
On Sunday, a risky partial face transplant was performed in real life. In France surgeons harvested a nose, lips and chin, a triangle of facial tissues, muscles, arteries and blood veins, from a brain dead donor whose family agreed. They then grafted it onto a 38-year old woman who lost most of her lower face in a dog attack.
David Young, MD: "My hope is that this becomes a standard procedure."
Dr. David Young is a plastic surgeon at UCSF. While skin grafts from other parts of the body are often used to replace damaged facial skin, it's not ideal.
Dr. Young: "There is no tissue anywhere on the body like the face."
He says UCSF has a program for facial transplants, but to date the most appropriate patients - such as burn victims - have been hesitant.
Dr. Young: "Patients have been very reluctant to be the first person to have this done."
Dr. Young says he hopes if the French case succeeds, patients in the Bay Area may overcome their reluctance. And he says, families who donate the tissue need not worry, real life face transplants are no Hollywood movie.
Dr. Young: "Obviously we could not guarantee there would not be some recognizable feature, some dimple or some mole or something. But you would not be looking at your loved one across the bus from you or something.
As for the French woman, her surgeons say she is in excellent condition and so far, the transplant looks good.