Joe DiMeo was severely scorched in a car accident and says the operation, performed at a medical center in New York, offered him a ‘second chance’.
Doctors in New York performed the world’s first successful two-arm face and transplant.
22-year-old Joe DiMeo underwent a 23-hour surgery performed by a team of more than 140 professionals last August.
A car accident in 2018 left DiMeo with a third-degree burn on 80% of his body. His fingers were dissected and he lost his lips and eyelids.
He said the operation gave him “a second chance in life”.
Dimio was coming home from work at night when he fell asleep at the wheel. His car was engulfed in flames.
He spent four months in a water treatment unit, including a period in an induced coma. DiMeo then underwent more than 20 reconstructive surgeries, but had only limited use of his hands and face.
In 2019, he was referred to NYU Langone, an academic medical center in New York, where he underwent transplant surgery last August.
Eduardo Rodríguez, director of the hospital’s facial transplant program, said, “We wanted to submit him not only to an operation that would make him look better, but, ultimately, one that would work exclusively with his hands.”
DiMeo spent 45 days in the ICU after surgery and two more months in the hospital, where he had to learn to open his eyelids and use his new hands.
Two facial and hand transplants have already been done, but both have not been successful. One patient succumbed to complications and the other removed his hands after failing to develop.
Doctors at the hospital waited to make sure there were no complications before the transplant was considered their success.
Rodriguez says Dimio, who lives for five hours a day, is “the most motivated patient” he has ever met.
“He wants to play the game, loves to play golf and wants to get back on the field. I can always be impressed with the weight he can lift and the quality of his grip can also increase,” he said.
DiMeo says that now he can take training alone and prepare breakfast.
“It’s a unique gift in life, and I hope that the (donor’s) family can comfort themselves knowing that a part of it stays with me,” he said. “I and my parents are very grateful for this second chance.”