Isabelle Dinoire has died 11 years after receiving a new mouth, nose, and chin in the world’s first partial face transplant.
In 2005, Professor Bernard Devauchelle and Dr Jean-Michel Dubernard attached a graft of the nose, lips and chin of a brain-dead donor to replace parts of her destroyed face.
According to reports in France, Dinoire, from Valenciennes, became seriously ill after years of taking immunosuppressant drugs designed to prevent her body rejecting new tissues following the transplant. Her body rejected a new skin graft, resulting in the partial loss of her lips last November.
She was diagnosed with two different cases of cancer as a result of treatment and died on 22 April. Her death was announced by the hospital she had been treated at.
In a 2012 interview, she said she didn’t remember the night her dog attacked her as she had taken an overdose of sleeping pills prior and lost consciousness. She awoke in a pool of blood with her dog, Tania, beside her. The dog had attempted to wake her by gnawing at her face,
She said she only realised the extent of her injuries after she attempted to light a cigarette. “When I came to, there was blood on the ground and I tried to get up – but I couldn’t manage.
“I wasn’t aware how bad I was, only that I had blood on my arms. I tried to light a cigarette but never got it to light. I went to look in the mirror and was horrified.”
Speaking to the BBC, she described how she struggled to recognise herself anymore and was desperate to meet the family of the donor. She said: “The most difficult thing is to find myself again, as the person I was, with the face I had before the accident. But I know that’s not possible.
“When I look in the mirror, I see a mixture of the two [of us]. The donor is always with me.”
Dubernard said after carrying out the operation: “Once I had seen Isabelle’s disfigured face, no more needed to be said. I was convinced something had to be done for this patient.” Dubernard had also performed the world’s first hand transplant in 1998, as well as the first double hand and forearm transplant in 2000.
There have been some 30 face transplants since 2005, including a man in Spain who received the world’s first ‘full’ face transplant in 2010 following a shooting accident.