Aaron James, a 46-year-old military veteran from Arkansas, has undergone the world’s first whole-eye and partial-face transplant, a groundbreaking procedure that could potentially restore his vision and improve his quality of life.
James lost his left eye and part of his face in a high-voltage electric shock accident in 2021, when he was working as an electrician. He suffered severe burns, nerve damage, and blindness in his left eye. He also had difficulty breathing, speaking, and eating.
He underwent the transplant surgery at NYU Langone Health in May 2023, receiving an eye and facial tissues from a single donor. The surgery was led by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, a renowned plastic surgeon who has performed five face transplants before.
“This is a very complex surgery that requires a lot of planning, a lot of preparation, and a lot of teamwork,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “We had to connect the optic nerve, blood vessels, muscles, and skin of the donor eye and face to Aaron’s own. We also had to reconstruct his nose, upper lip, and cheekbone.”
The surgery lasted for 15 hours and involved a team of more than 50 medical professionals, including surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and technicians. James spent two months in the hospital and underwent intensive rehabilitation.
“I’m very grateful for the donor and his family. They gave me a second chance at life,” James said. “I want to inspire other people who have gone through something similar, to let them know that there is hope.”
James hopes that his procedure will advance transplant medicine and possibly restore his vision. He said he is looking forward to seeing his wife and two children again.
“We don’t know yet if he will be able to see, but we are hopeful that he will have some degree of vision in the future,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “He’s a very courageous man, very optimistic, very determined to overcome this challenge.”
The transplant surgery is part of a clinical trial funded by the Department of Defense, which aims to improve the outcomes of wounded warriors who have suffered facial injuries. Dr. Rodriguez said he plans to perform more whole-eye and partial-face transplants in the future, as well as full-face and full-eye transplants.
– World’s first whole-eye and partial face transplant gives Arkansas man new hope, CNN, 11/9/2023
– Arkansas military veteran receives world’s first whole-eye and partial-face transplant, Fox News, 11/10/2023
– World’s First Whole-Eye Transplant Is a Success, Gizmodo, 11/10/2023
– Doctors Complete First Successful Face and Whole-Eye Transplant, Scientific American, 11/9/2023