Health North America

World’s first whole-eye transplant performed on a US veteran

World’s first whole-eye transplant performed on a US veteran

Aaron James’ story began in 2021, when after being electrocuted; suffering a deadly 7,200-volt electric shock.

He survived the high-voltage electrical accident when he accidentally touched a live wire with his face, which began the long journey undergoing a world-first transplant.

Mr James, 46,  from Hot Springs, Arkansas, wide range of injuries included the loss of his left eye, entire nose, lips, front teeth, left cheek and chin. His left hand from elbow was also lost.

The rare partial face transplant was done with over 140 professionals earlier in May, the procedure lasted approximately 21 hours.

Aaron James is pictured with Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, director of the Face Transplant Program and chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone. (Mateo Salcedo / NYU Langone Health)

The entire left eye and portion of face transplanted to the veteran was from a single donor and was done by the surgical team from NYU Langone Health. A first, as it is the only successful combined transplant case of its kind.

In a release from the surgeons November 9, it is stated that It’s not currently known if James will regain sight, but that the transplanted eye has ‘shown remarkable signs of health’.

Dr Eduardo Rodriguez, one of the lead surgeons on his case said, “Aaron has been extremely motivated to regain the function and independence he lost after his injury. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect patient,” said Dr Eduardo Rodriguez, one of the leading surgeons on the case.

After the accident, James had severe issues with food and even had to have his eye removed as he was in constant pain.

3D-printing was used for his face during the surgery and his rehabilitation continued with physical, occupational and speech therapy, after his discharge.

 “We’ve made one major step forward and have paved the way for the next chapter to restore vision. ”The mere fact that we’ve accomplished the first successful whole-eye transplant with a face is a tremendous feat many have long thought was not possible.

“We’ve made one major step forward and have paved the way for the next chapter to restore vision.”

“I’m grateful beyond words for the donor and his family, who have given me a second chance at life during their own time of great difficulty. I hope the family finds solace in knowing that part of the donor lives on with me.

“I will also forever be thankful to Dr Rodriguez and his team for changing my life. My family and I wouldn’t have been able to navigate this difficult journey without their expertise and support.”

He told NBC News: “I just look like a normal person walking down the street.”

The procedure marks a major step for the field of transplant medicine, Dr. Oren Tepper, plastic and reconstructive surgeon and director of the Craniofacial Surgery Program at Montefiore Health System, said in an email to CNN.

“This highly technical and complex surgery represents a significant advancement in the field of face transplantation,” wrote Tepper, who was not involved in Aaron’s care.

“Ultimately, if transplanting an eye proves to be successful at restoring any form of nerve function or visual signals, this would be a tremendous breakthrough in medicine for patients who have suffered loss of the eye due to trauma or cancer.”

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