Meanwhile in New Jersey: First-Ever Double-Hand and Facial Transplant Performed, Earns Doctors Two Thumbs Up

Joseph DiMeo had no idea when he fell asleep at the wheel that he’d soon be making history. While driving home from work, the 22-year-old New Jersey resident flipped his car after striking a curb and his car burst into flames. Another driver pulled DiMeo from the wreckage before the gas tank exploded, but not before he suffered third-degree burns on 80 percent of his body. After spending two and a half months in a medically induced coma DiMeo underwent 20 skin grafts, had his fingertips removed, then his thumbs amputated.

“His life was completely derailed,” Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez said of his patient. “It was completely unexpected.”

Double-hand transplants have been attempted twice before. The first case in Paris ended up killing the patient. Another attempt in Boston saw both hands removed within days. But this time doctors were hopeful.

In a 24 hour procedure involving 96 operating room staff, the surgeons managed to reconnect both donor hands to DiMeo’s mid-forearm, carefully attaching blood vessels, nerve endings, and 21 tendons. Then they set about transplanting the forehead, eyelids, nose, ears, cheeks, lips, and underlying skull.

‘The face needs to fit like a puzzle — and that’s a tricky thing because we hit the point of no return,” Rodriguez told ABC News. A really macabre, fleshy puzzle that has no picture on the box to reference. To their credit, the team succeeded, giving DiMeo a second chance at life and making him the first person in the world to successfully receive a double-hand and face transplant. Holy wow. Now he can post selfies on Instagram without a special stick. We give this story two thumbs up.

Cover Photo: Azret Ayubov (Getty Images)

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