In March, a team of surgeons at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital announced the results of the amazing case of Dallas Wiens, a construction worker from Fort Worth, Texas, who received the most complete face transplant in the United States to date.
The 25-year- old construction worker suffered extreme injures from severe burns to his head, when the boom lift he was operating struck a power line. The horrific construction site accident left him in a coma for three months.
In the following two and a half years, he underwent 22 surgeries. The damage to his face was so severe that after the surgeries, all that remained was a lipless mouth and a goatee. He was also blind, as his eyes were destroyed in the accident.
The 15-hour surgery to replace Wiens’ facial area, “including the nose, lips, facial skin, muscles of facial animation and the nerves that power them and provide sensation,” was not simply to improve how he looks.
Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, who led the team of surgeons who performed the transplant, noted, “The face is very complex organ.” The face is used for breathing, speaking, and eating, but Wiens’ primary concern was being able to kiss his daughter.
Wiens’ face transplant was the most complete done in the U.S. and used a whole face and the bony tissue of the nose, according to Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, where the surgery was performed.
Transplant surgery is always complex, as it requires not only the right organ to be transplanted, but also matches in tissue and blood type and the use of anti-rejection drugs.
The body’s immune system sees the transplant as a foreign invader and attempts to reject the tissue. Drugs now help control this and many transplants have become routine.
While Dallas Wiens’ case is exceptional, the unpleasant truth is that many workers are subjected to the kind of risk that almost killed Wiens. Construction workers are exposed to massive, powerful equipment, and dangerous conditions that can cause electrocution, burns, crush injuries, and suffocation, amongst other common workplace injuries.
The Wiens’ case also demonstrates the long road to recovery many injured workers must deal with, including immediate medical attention after the accident, multiple corrective and reconstructive surgeries to repair the injury, and often, lifelong rehabilitation.
When someone is injured in a construction or other workplace accident, they and their family need to speak with an attorney who can review their situation, and assist with workers’ compensation and other potential means of recovering damages. Obtaining the compensation may be as complex was the medical recovery, and a San Mateo construction accident attorney can see that you receive all the help that may be available.
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