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A Horrific Hunting Accident Took His Face, Doctors Just Gave Him A New One

Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont/Facebook

In the past couple of decades, science has come an incredible way in terms of medical technology.

In 2005, the first ever face transplant operation took place in Amiens, France. Since then, there have been about 40 operations to have taken place across the world.

But this past August saw a 64-year-old man become the oldest person to undergo the surgery, and his new face is nothing short of amazing.

"You’re living this very difficult existence. Then, overnight essentially, you get a second lease on life."

In 2011, Maurice Desjardins lost his nose, lips, jaw, and teeth following a hunting accident, but after an extraordinary 30-hour operation, he now has a new face that wouldn't make anyone look twice.

The surgery took place in May and had 100 medical staff involved, led by plastic surgeon Dr. Daniel Borsuk at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont in Montreal, Canada.

The Gatineau, Québec resident had been living in pain for seven years, despite having five reconstructive surgeries since his accident.

"Imagine when you’re suffering in silence at home for years and you don’t leave your house as much as you’d like to, and you’re sleeping in a separate room because of the sound of the tracheostomy (opening in the trachea)," Borsuk told CTV News.

"You’re living this very difficult existence. Then, overnight essentially, you get a second lease on life."

"He’s so mentally tough that even with everything that was done, he’s already begun (accepting) the new face."

Desjardins only had a few simple requests for Borsuk: to be able to breathe properly, speak properly and to have a nose, lips, jaws and teeth. The plastic surgeon said Desjardins hoped to be able to walk his granddaughter down the street without being stared at.

"As a plastic surgeon, I know that, no matter large or small, injuries to the face have a particularly symbolic aspect and are closely linked to our identity," Borsuk said.

"Facial disfigurement can have a detrimental effect on self-confidence and productivity, and therefore, this transplant offered immense hope and possibility to our patient."

However, the face transplant surgery wasn't planned in just the spur of the moment, as Desjardins had to go through a rigorous amount of tests, including an evaluation by a psychologist to determine his mental state of mind.  

"We put him through the wringer in terms of tests," Borsuk said. "We wanted to make sure this guy was in good health … his needs were there, there was no other option for him, and there was no other chance of him having a normal life."

"He’s so mentally tough that even with everything that was done, he’s already begun (accepting) the new face," he added. "That’s something we were counting on."

"You can make a face, but it has to be beautiful."

After the operation and a week in intensive care, Borsuk said that when his patient first saw his new face, he gave him a thumbs up and big hug.

"You can make a face, but it has to be beautiful," he said adding that he believes his team accomplished "one of the best face transplants to date."

Like any other organ, a face must exactly match its new owner. The donor must have the same skin color, height, bone structure and hair color - so it matches the hair follicles of the intended recipient.

Desjardin's face was provided by Transplant Québec, who said the donor's family wished to remain annoymous.

"Transplant Québec is very pleased with the success of this, the first face transplant in Quebec and Canada, made possible through organ donation," managing director Louis Beaulieu said.

"We would like to acknowledge the donor family, who showed great empathy and generosity in accepting that their loved one donate his face and his organs."

"The tremendous collaboration between Dr. Borsuk’s team and Transplant Québec’s is one of the keys to the success of this first, which was so beneficial for the receiver."

"Now people want to see your face."

It will take Desjardins a year or more to recover from the operation and will have to relearn basic skills such as breathing without a tracheostomy, chewing with his new jaws, smelling and speaking properly via rehabilitation.

He will also have to be put on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of his life.

When asked about the ethics of the operation. Borsuk said this surgery shouldn't be considered any different than any other organ transplant.

He added that while Desjardins is the same man he was before the operation, having a face is also inherently valuable.

"It used to be in the time of our grandparents, that your name meant something," Borsuk said. "Now people want to see your face."

[H/T: CTV News, Daily Mail]

What do you think about Desjardins' new face? Let us know in the comments!

Maya has been working at Shared for a year. She just begrudgingly spent $200 on a gym membership. Contact her at maya@shared.com