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Veteran becomes the first person in the world to receive a successful whole-eye transplant

Medical experts from NYU Langone stepped into an entirely new sphere with this whole-eye and partial face transplant.

Veteran becomes the first person in the world to receive a successful whole-eye transplant
Cover Image Source: Twitter | @nyulangone

The wizards of the healthcare domain are working miracles every day in saving and fortifying lives. Especially, with the growing success rate of organ transplants they are giving hopeless patients a second chance at life. Recently, the surgeons of NYU Langone Health have traversed successfully the unexplored territory of a whole-eye transplant on a 46-year-old man along with a partial face transplant. The entire left eye and a portion of the face from a single donor were transplanted making it the only successful combined transplant of its kind in medical history.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Meagan James (@mjames1423)


 

Aaron James, an Arkansas-based military veteran who worked as a lineman, suffered a 7200-volt electric shock on his face while working with his colleagues in Mississippi in June 2021. He was transferred to various medical centers for more intensive care and reconstructive surgeries. Recalling the incident Aaron told CNN "Basically, I got up, went to work and woke up six weeks later in Dallas, Texas. It’s a weird feeling when you just all of a sudden wake up in a hospital." While his wife, Meagan and their daughter Allie were worried about how Aaron might feel about his face once he woke up, the doctors informed them about the option of a face transplant. Aaron was totally up for a transplant and thought that this was a big deal as they don't just do those every day. The Texas specialists then referred Aaron to Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, director of the Face Transplant Program at NYU Langone Health.



 

As Dr.Rodriguez was kept in the loop with Aaron's case since 2021 he and his team recommended the Texas surgeons who removed Aaron's left eye to cut the optic nerve as close as possible to the eyeball to facilitate reconstructive options later. When Aaron gave the nod to the transplant despite knowing that at best it might only provide cosmetic benefits but leave many unknowns, the NYU Langone team began with their donor search for organ procurement. Aaron's luck favored him as he had one of the shortest wait times for a donor. The goodwill of a young man in his 30s and his family who generously supported organ donation helped Aaron's face and eye transplant. 


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Meagan James (@mjames1423)


 

The entire transplant surgery done on May 27 this year lasted for around 21 hours with a team of more than 140 specialists including surgeons, nurses, and other professionals. With state-of-the-art techniques including 3D computer surgical planning and adult stem cell injection for nerve regeneration, this advanced surgery took place in a capacious OR where two teams simultaneously operated on the donor and recipient. "Beyond the eye, the quality of Aaron’s results from the face transplant is special. You would never think he underwent such a procedure so recently. He looks great," said Dr. Rodriguez about the successful surgery. Aaron's post-surgery recovery took 17 days in the ICU and he is currently bolstering his health with physical, occupational, and speech therapy. 


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Aaron James (@aaronj1423)


 

Once a veteran always a veteran. Aaron's journey throughout this transplant has been nothing short of inspiring and his courage to stick through multiple surgeries is quite commendable. His strong-willed family and the astute medical team of NYU Langone have made this impossible feat possible. Aaron feels extremely grateful to the donor and their family for changing his life and thanks Dr. Rodriguez and his team for their continued support. "Our hope is that my story can serve as inspiration for those facing severe facial and ocular injuries," said Aaron. 



 

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