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  • Sofia Rivera, reporter

First Successful Face, Double Hand Transplant in the World

Joe Dimeo was gifted a second chance at life. In 2018, Dimeo lost control of his vehicle after falling asleep at the wheel on Route 22 in New Jersey after he finished working a night shift. His vehicle hit the curb causing it to flip over before bursting into flames.

Dimeo suffered third degree burns covering nearly 80% of his body. A witness pulled him out of the flaming vehicle just in time before it exploded.

The damage was so severe that it left Dimeo without eyelids, ears, and many of his fingers. There was also severe scarring across his face and neck, limiting his range of motion.

He underwent many reconstructive surgeries and multiple skin grafts to treat his third-degree burns, however, these procedures couldn’t help Dimeo regain full vision or use of his hands.

The 22 year old was recently declared the recipient of the world’s first successful face and hands transplant announced by the doctors at NYU Langone Medical Center who spent 23 hours in surgery.

Prior to the risky transplant, doctors estimated Dimeo only had a six percent chance of finding a compatible match for his immune system. The team identified a donor in Delaware early in August and completed the 23 hour long surgery just a few days later.

Because of the high risk in any transplant, Dimeo will need to take medication for the rest of his life to avoid his body rejecting the transplants. He will also need to continue rehabilitation to gain various sensations and functions in his new face and hands.

As of right now Dr. Rodriguez, surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, reported that Dimeo has not shown any signs of his body rejecting his new face or hands, however the risk remains and the medications he takes also leave him vulnerable to infection.

Nevertheless, Dimeo and his family show immense gratitude for his second chance at life describing it as, “a once-in-a-lifetime gift,” and for the doctors incredible patience and dedication.

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