First full-eye and face transplant performed in NYC
"For the first time in a year and a half, I can kiss my wife," said Aaron James, the first person to ever receive a whole eye and partial face transplant.
The National Guard veteran was working as a high-voltage lineman in June 2021 when he got a 7,200-volt electric shock, causing him to lose his left arm, eye, cheek, nose and lips.
James and his family flew to New York City from Arkansas to meet with Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the lead face transplant surgeon and Chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone Health.
After finding a donor and a long preparation process, Dr. Rodriguez and his team performed the meticulous 21-hour surgery this past May.
"We carefully dissected out all the nerves and blood vessels, muscles, bones and of course a very intricate dissection of the structure around the eye," said Dr. Rodriguez.
Despite potentially fatal risks, James says the surgery was a no brainer, and that it was the relentless support of his family that kept him going through it all.
"That little bit of hope that it could happen, that I could get back to a normal life," he said.
For now, it's impossible to know whether James will ever be able to see from his new eye, but Dr. Rodriguez says this breakthrough could be a game-changer.
"We've crossed into that uncharted territory, connecting the nerves of the eyes to the brain and we're seeing some remarkable recovery. I think it offers a lot of promise," said Dr. Rodriguez.