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Face transplant recipient: 'I'm thrilled with what I've got'

May 1, 2013 at 4:42 PM   |   Comments

BOSTON, May 1 (UPI) -- A woman who received a face transplant in Boston says she is "thrilled with what I've got" -- including love with a piano teacher who saw "through my scars."

Carmen Tarleton, 44 -- who introduced her new face Wednesday at a news conference -- was burned over 80 percent of her body when her husband poured industrial-strength lye on her in 2007. She had more than 50 surgical procedures but her face remained scarred, to the degree that children ran away from her and TV newscasters introducing reports on her cautioned viewers the reports contained disturbing images, CNN reported.

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, Tarleton's plastic surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, suggested she might be a candidate for a full facial transplant.

Pomahac had performed the first facial transplant in the United States on Dallas Wiens of Texas in 2011.

Tarleton told CNN Monday at her home in Thetford, Vt., she does not know the name of the donor whose face she received, but she thinks about her constantly.

"I have conversations with her and let her know how grateful I am," Tarleton said. "I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled with what I've got."

Tarleton's case was complicated by the presence of an unusually large number of antibodies in her immune system, a result of blood transfusions and surgeries. After she had the 15-hour transplant surgery in February, her body began to reject the new face -- but doctors were able to devise an effective cocktail of anti-rejection drugs, CNN reported.

Tarleton -- whose case attracted donations from the public, allowing her to support herself and her two daughters, ages 12 and 14 -- began studying piano in December and now she is looking forward to being able to kiss her piano teacher, Sheldon Stein, who fell in love with her before the transplant surgery.

"He was able to see me through my scars," she said.

"I can't pucker and feel yet," she said. "But I am looking forward to that day. I know that day will come."

Herbert Rodgers, Tarleton's ex-husband, pleaded guilty to maiming and was sentenced in 2009 to 30 years to 70 years in prison.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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