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Frenchman is first in world to get two full face transplants

PARIS — He has been called the man with three faces.

Jérôme Hamon of France has earned the title because of pioneering operations that have made him the first person to get not just one, but two full face transplants.

Both surgeries were performed by Dr. Laurent Lantieri of the Georges-Pompidou European Hospital in Paris. Hamon was said to be recovering in the hospital from the second operation, which he underwent in January.

Hamon, a bookseller, has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disease that can lead to facial deformities. In June 2010, Lantieri removed Hamon’s entire face, including his eyelids and lachrymal system.

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Using material from a 65-year-old donor, the surgeon replaced the bookseller’s face with a full-face skin graft. The operation was a success. The only features of Hamon that were preserved were his eyes.

But five years later, his new life took a cruel turn — all because he caught the common cold. To treat the illness, Hamon took an antibiotic. But the pill was incompatible with the immunosuppressive treatment for the transplant. Hamon’s body quickly started rejecting his face.

Parts of his first transplant began gradually to die. The skin began to get stiff. In November, surgeons had to remove Hamon’s new face.

With no face, Hamon was confined to a highly sterilized room for about two months. He was unable to move and could not drink, eat, or breathe naturally because he did not have lips. He could barely hear because he did not have ears. He could not see because he did not have eyelids (doctors closed his eyes artificially to protect them).

In mid-January, skin from a new donor became available from a 22-year-old man in western France who had been declared brain dead.

NEW YORK TIMES