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First full face transplant recipient married in Texas

 Dallas Wiens and Jamie Nash met in a support group.

KXAS Dallas/Fort Worth via Associated Press

Dallas Wiens and Jamie Nash met in a support group.

A Texas man who received the first full face transplant in the country at Brigham and Women’s Hospital was married Saturday in the church where he was injured, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Dallas Wiens, 27, married Jamie Nash, a woman he met in a support group for burn victims. Wiens’s grandfather, Del Peterson, planned to read a toast at the reception from Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, the surgeon who led his operation, hospital spokeswoman Erin ­McDonough said.

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A 2008 accident left Wiens without facial features, save for part of his chin. He was standing in a cherry picker, painting the second floor of Ridglea Baptist Church in Fort Worth, when the lift touched a high-voltage power line.

Doctors in Texas removed the nerves, muscles, and tissue in his face, covering the area with skin and muscles from his back. Wiens was blind and without lips, a nose, or teeth.

Over the course of about 15 hours, more than 30 specialists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital gave Wiens the face of an anonymous donor, the hospital said in 2011.

A year after his surgery, Dallas Wiens was able to show expression as he smiled when asked about interacting with his daughter.

Joanne Rathe/Globe staff/File 2012

A year after his surgery, Dallas Wiens was able to show expression as he smiled when asked about interacting with his daughter.

The new face extended from the middle of his scalp to his neck.

A year after his surgery, Wiens could feel most of his face, eat, drink, and smell normally, and muster a smile.

“The minute details are incredible to me,’’ he said last April. “The way my face has thrived has taken me off guard.’’

About 200 people gathered at Ridglea Baptist Church for the Saturday morning wedding, the Rev. Scott Cox told the Associated Press.

The bride burned her hand and her back in a 2010 car crash. Nash and Wiens believe God brought them together, Cox said.

A few surgeons from Brigham and Women’s Hospital were invited, said McDonough, who did not believe any attended.

Wiens’s surgery was the 14th full or partial facial transplant in the world, and the first in which the recipient's immune system did not reject donor tissue. Doctors primed his immune system with skin grafts using donor tissue, lowering the chance of rejection.

Pomahac, Brigham’s director of plastic surgery transplantation and medical director of the hospital’s burn center, said that at first, he was unsure whether Wiens had enough nerves remaining for a transplant.

“He was, quite literally, a man without any remnant that would resemble a face,’’ Pomahac said at a news conference last year.

But Pomahac found enough underlying nerves in Wiens’s face, and was able to perform the transplant.

Wiens returned to Texas last May. He has said he was amazed how the new face became a part of him. Even the initially coarse hair above his forehead grew more like his.

“It’s amazing to be given a life that you weren’t sure for quite awhile that you were ever going to have again,’’ Wiens said last year.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com.
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