Xu Jianmei was left disfigured by a fire when she was just five-years-old, but now a team of Chinese medics have given the her a new face. Now, at age 17, Xu had the surgery in the city of Fuzhou, in Fujian province, in the southeast of the country.
It’s an interesting story that continued right after she woke up from the operation. The girl quickly noticed that she once again had a chin, eyelids and an ear. However, she said the best thing is that she can now smile properly for the first time in 12 years.
Xu’s parents were unable to afford to pay for her to have plastic surgery but she was given hope when doctors offered to carry out the pioneering operation for free.
It meant the girl from a small fishing village could receive the face transplant which was carried out using tissue from her chest.
The transplant team implanted a blood vessel from her leg into her chest and then used a water-filled balloon to expand her skin to create enough to make her new face.
Video footage from the eight-hour surgery shows Xu lying in a hospital bed, barely conscious and severely swollen, but with smooth flesh now replacing the ridged scars of her old face.
“With her new face she will be able to express herself in a more precise way. She will even be able to blush when her emotions change, but it will take a long time,” her surgeon, Jiang Chenhong, claimed.
“First, we took a piece of blood vessel fascia from her thigh and implanted it in her chest,” he said, adding, “Then we inserted a skin expander beneath the part of skin where the blood vessel fascia was planted, so that the part could expand and produce enough skin for her new face.”
Chinese teaare said to have performed several similar transplant surgeries in recent months, including creating a new nose on a car accident survivor’s forehead.
China’s first donor face transplant recipient, farmer Li Guoxing, received his new face in 2006 – less than a year after the world’s first successful face transplant recipient, Isabelle Dinoir, was presented to media in France.
However, Li died less than two years later, after stopping his anti-rejection medication.
There have been 10 surgeries of this kind have been performed in China since the operation.