Joe DiMeo is finally learning to express himself through facial expressions and hands. Smiling, pinching, squeezing, blinking and many other things are under the process of learning. After a face and hands transplant surgery, Joe DiMeo is now prepared to learn their uses after six months of the surgery.
Joe DiMeo is a 22-year-old New Jersey resident. He received severe burns after a car accident in August last year.
After the transplant surgery, one had to take baby steps to keep things moving, said Mr. DiMeo. He said that he is aware of his situation and know that a lot of patience and continuous motivation is required. He tries his best to stay strong through everything he is dealing and will have to deal in future as well.
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The surgery took place at the NYU Langone Health. The doctors said that the surgery so far seems successful, but it will still take some time to confirm the long run results.
According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), Joe DiMeo had undergone 18 face transplants and 35 hand transplants during the rare surgery. UNOS is responsible to look after the nation’s transplant systems. As per the claims, the simultaneous hands and face transplants had been tried only twice before this.
The first transplant was done in Paris in the year 2009. But the patient developed severe complications and died within a month of the rare transplant surgery.
In 2011, the transplant was tried again in Boston on a woman mauled by a Chimpanzee. But the doctors had to remove the hand transplant a day later. According to DR. Bohdan Pomahac, a surgeon at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s hospital, the removal of the transplanted hands was a phenomenal attempt. Even removing of transplanted organs is a complicated job that was done with tremendous success.
In case of Me. DiMeo, the rare hand and face surgery is good so far. However, he is put on lifelong medications so that his body does not reject the transplanted organs. He also had to follow continued rehabilitation to gain sensations in the transplanted body parts and also to put these on proper functioning.
Mr. DiMeo while working on a night shift for a drug company for product testing was heading back in his car. But he was too tired and fall asleep on the wheel. He faced a severe accident when the car hit a utility pole. With the collision, the car flipped and soon caught fire. Another driver who witnessed the accident came to his rescue.
After spending months in medically induced coma, and undergoing multiple surgeries, it was clear to his doctors that the conventional skin grafting and surgeries are useless for Mr. DiMeo’s third degree burns. They started preparing for the risky transplant since 2019. Dr. David Classan said that the transplant was exceptionally unusual.
The NYU doctors then faced the challenges to find a suitable donor. His condition has led doctors to estimate a six percent donor match compatible with his immunity. Not only this, the doctors were looking for someone with the same gender, skin complexion and the hand dominance. This has further limited the donor search.
With the transplant plan in hand and a look out for a suitable donor, the doctors face another big challenge. The coronavirus pandemic! Due to covid-19 organ donations observed a decline. Many members of the transplant search were shifted to covid-19 wards.
Finally, in August 2020, a donor was identified in Delaware. A few days later the rare transplant procedure was completed in a 23 hours long surgery. Two hands were joined through nerves blood vessels, 21 tendons with hair-thin sutures. A full face that includes forehead, eyebrows, nose, lips, eyelids, ears and the underlying facial bones, were also transplanted.
Dr Rodriguez said that so far, his body is not rejecting the transplanted organs. This seems a great achievement, if successful.