Jérôme Hamon is the first person in the world to receive two face transplants.
And a few months after receiving his second transplant in January, he spoke to reporters and told them that he was feeling well.
“I still have moments when I’m exhausted, but overall I feel well,” he said.
Doctors removed Hamon’s first transplanted face last year after it began to show signs that it was being rejected by his body, reports said, after a period of antibiotic treatment he was given to fight a cold. The antibiotics conflicted with the immunosuppressive treatment he was being given to prevent the face’s rejection, the BBC reported, and last November, the face had to be removed because of necrosis.
Hamon stayed at the Georges-Pompidou hospital in Paris without a face, unable to see, hear or speak until the second transplant took place, the news service reported. Hamon underwent months of blood treatment before the operation to try to stave off a rejection of the new face. The donor was 22 years old.
“I’m 43,” Hamon told French TV, according to the Associated Press. “So I’ve become 20 years younger.”
French media reports have dubbed Hamon “the man with three faces.” Doctors have praised the forthrightness with which he’s faced his difficult medical journal. Hamon has a condition called neurofibromatosis type 1, which can cause skin tumors on the face and elsewhere.
Anesthetist Bernard Cholley told Agence France-Presse that medical staff were “blown away by Jerome’s courage, his will, his strength of character in a tragic situation.”
“While he was waiting he never complained, he was even in a good mood,” Cholley said.
Doctors will wait to see the results of Hamon’s second facial transplant.
“Today, we know that a double transplant is feasible. It’s no longer in the field of research,” Laurent Lantieri, who performed Hamon’s first surgery years ago, told Le Parisien, according to the BBC.
Other doctors, too, described the procedure as a breakthrough.
“The fact that Professor Lantieri was able to save this patient gives us hope that other patients can have a backup surgery if necessary,” Cleveland Clinic plastic surgeon Frank Papay told the AP. Doctors expect facial transplant procedures, of which there have been 40 since the first was performed in France in 2005, to become more common.
Plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahac of Harvard University told the AP that doctors still do not know exactly how long face transplants last but have forecast about 10 to 15 years, which is similar to kidneys.
“The more we see what’s happening with patients, the more we have to accept that chronic rejection is a reality,” Pomahac said. “Face transplants will become essentially nonfunctional, distorted, and that may be a good time to consider re-transplanting.”
Hamon said he has accepted his new face.
“The first transplant I accepted immediately. I thought, ‘This is my new face,’ and this time, it’s the same,” he said. “If I hadn’t accepted this new face, it would have been terrible. It’s a question of identity.”
He added: “But here we are, it’s good, it’s me.”