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Turkish Surgeons Complete a Series of Miraculous Full-Face Transplants

Turkish Surgeons Complete a Series of Miraculous Full-Face Transplants

Friday August 24, 2012

World media highlighted a series of successful full-face transplants performed in Turkey this year. For people who have for one reason or the other lost their usual appearance, eye expression, smile, sense of smell, who do not dare look their relatives and friends in the face in fear of their reaction, such success of Turkish surgeons is of revolutionary importance.

Below are the stories of four face transplants that took place in Turkey in 2012. They tell about accident survivors whose faces remained only on old photos and in the memories of their loved ones. Surgery helped them reclaim better looks and normal lifestyles:

First surgery

A 19-year-old Turkish teenager Uğur Acar who suffered serious burns as a newborn has received the country’s first face transplant.

Speaking from his hospital bed at the Akdeniz University's School of Medicine in southern Turkey, Acar, who is already growing stubble on his chin, said his new face “couldn’t be better”.

Dr. Özlenen Özkan, a professor from the department of plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery, said: “Uğur had his first shave. Uğur is both mentally and physically a very strong young man. His being strong makes our job easier.

“We are lucky to have such a patient. We are continuing to give him treatment to prevent tissue rejection. After a week, we will start cutting down on his medication. He can actually resume a normal life, but we would like to keep him here at the hospital for a little while longer,”

The surgery went ahead with transplant tissue taken from a 45-year-old donor.

Acar will be able to make facial expressions within six months and is now dreaming of getting married.

The surgery brings the worldwide number of face transplants to 20, the Daily Mail reported. The first took place in 2005 and was carried out on a French woman named Isabelle Dinoire.

Second surgery

The Ankara-based Hacettepe University School of Medicine Hospital successfully performed Turkey's second full-face transplant surgery on a 25-year-old patient, who lost 70 percent of his face when he was only 2 years old.

The surgery was made possible after the relatives of a 40-year-old man who was recently declared brain dead at İzmir's Dokuz Eylül University Hospital, after having been critically injured in a motorcycle accident on Feb. 17, decided to donate his organs.

The donor's face, whose name has not been disclosed, was given to Cengiz Gül, who suffered serious burns in a television tube explosion when he was 2 years old. An operation also began on Friday at the same hospital to transplant the donor's arms and legs to another patient.

The organs were brought to Ankara from İzmir early on February 24 and doctors promptly began the surgery, which took hours, at Hacettepe University's School of Medicine Hospital in the afternoon.

Hacettepe University President told the state-run Anatolia news agency that the patient is currently under intensive care but he remains stable. He added that hours following the operation are critical so that doctors closely monitor the patient.

Gül's relatives said his hopes of receiving a full face-transplant increased after reports of the success of Acar's operation last month. Gül's aunt, Münevver Oral, said her nephew has long wished to have a face-transplant and had contacted Hacettepe University's School of Medicine last month to inquire about the possibility.

Commenting on Friday's surgery, Health Minister Recep Akdağ said Turkey will see more successful organ transplants in the future. “We should not overlook the basic issue here, which is donations by our people,” he said. He added that Hacettepe University's hospital also has the capacity to perform other types of organ transplant surgeries.

Hacettepe University Rector Professor Murat Tuncer said the double arm and limb transplant also being performed on a patient at the university's hospital will be a first not only in Turkey but in the whole world if it proves successful. He added that both of the operations, the full face-transplant and the double arm and limb transplant, are expected to continue until midnight.

“I am proud of my colleagues who are performing the operations. I would also like to thank the Health Ministry for offering us such an opportunity. Our ministry has established a very modern system. The Health Ministry has contributed a lot to the success of organ transplants in Turkey,” he added.

Third surgery

Hatice Nergis, the third Turkish person to receive a face transplant, saw her new face for the first time after her surgery on March 17 and said she liked it, according to the statement released by Gazi University Hospital.

The woman reportedly said she would not have dared to undergo such a difficult operation if she had no confidence in the team of surgeons. The statement added that the office has shared pictures of the patient with the press with her consent.

The 20-year-old woman from Kahramanmaraş had severe tissue loss to her nose, chin, palate and upper lip after being shot six years ago. Her donor was a 28-year-old woman who died on March 16 in İstanbul.

Professor Ömer Özkan and his team from Akdeniz University performed Turkey's first full-face transplant in January. The Ankara-based Hacettepe University School of Medicine Hospital last month successfully performed Turkey's second full-face transplant surgery on a 25-year-old patient, who suffered burns to 70 percent of his face when he was only 2 years old.

Fourth surgery

15 May — Antalya’s Akdeniz University Hospital successfully performed Turkey’s fourth full-face transplant on a 34-year-old patient.

In the fourth such operation in Turkey, 19-year-old Tevfik Yılmaz’s face was transplanted onto Turan Çolak. The operation was overseen by Dr. Ömer Özkan, a professor from the plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery department of Akdeniz University’s School of Medicine. The removal of Yılmaz’s face took six hours at a hospital in Uşak province. The face was immediately taken to Antalya to be transplanted onto Çolak, whose face was disfigured due to burns he suffered in a fire when he was 3-and-a-half years old.

The hospital is known for having carried out Turkey’s first full-face transplant in January. Uğur Acar, who suffered serious burns to his face during a house fire that occurred when he was just 40 days old, underwent a successful face-transplant operation at the hospital. The transplant was made possible after the family of Ahmet Kaya, who had been declared brain dead, donated all of his organs.


Tags: Turkey, organ transplant, full-face transplant, transplantology, donors, organ donation

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