The story behind this woman's face transplant is simply incredible

Illustration for article titled The story behind this woman's face transplant is simply incredible

The world’s first face transplant took place eight years ago, and while it remains a highly experimental operation, the procedure has been advancing in leaps and bounds ever since. In February of this year, Carmen Tarleton underwent one of the most successful face transplants yet.

Photo of Tarleton by Shell Stein

Today at The Verge, Katie Drummond has penned a must-read feature on the story behind Tarleton's facial transformation, complete with photo, video, infographics and diagrams. It begins:

For Carmen Tarleton, the day started out normally enough. Tarleton, 45, had errands to run, a piano lesson to get to, a house to tidy. Tomorrow was Valentine’s Day, and for the first time in a long time — the first time since the attack five years earlier — she looked forward to spending it with a new boyfriend. And then everything changed. The phone rang, and Tarleton’s surgeon gave her the news: after more than a year of searching, doctors were optimistic that they’d finally found her a new face.

That same day, more than 100 miles from Tarleton’s home in the bucolic hills of Thetford, Vermont, 30-year-old Marinda Righter was flipping through the pages of an old anatomy textbook in her apartment. Her mother, Cheryl, had days earlier slipped into a coma following a massive stroke that robbed her of brain function. As plans were outlined for organ donation, doctors at the local hospital approached Righter with a startling question: when they took her mother off life support, would she also consent to giving away Cheryl’s face? With five minutes to make up her mind, Righter locked herself in her home office and looked to the pages of that book. She marveled at the intricacy of the human body, at the complex tangle of nerves, muscles and skin that comprised a single face. She imagined what her own mother’s face, already drained of life, could restore in someone else.

Less than 24 hours later, at 5AM on February 14th, 2013, Carmen Tarleton was wheeled into an operating room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, for an experimental procedure that would replace her own scarred, mangled face with that of recently deceased 56-year-old Cheryl Denelli-Righter. If the surgeons succeeded, Tarleton would become just the seventh American patient to undergo a risky, experimental procedure known as a face transplant.


Read the rest over at The Verge.

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Wow, what a moving story, and what an incredible woman.

PS - If you read an article like this with the description of what was done to her, I think you should resign yourself to the fact that you are going to see a before photo. You should also have the respect and decency to not be nasty about it. Some of the comments in the linked article are shameful.