By AMY OLIVER | The Daily Mail
- Dallas Wiens can feel sensation in his face and can even smell again
- Daughter Scarlette, three, remarked: 'Daddy you're so handsome' when she saw him
- The first thing he smelled was the hospital kitchen's lasagne
- 'You have to choose to get bitter or get better,' he said. 'And I chose to get better'
Remarkable recovery spells hope for other people waiting for donor.
He was the first man in the U.S. to receive a full face transplant.
But for Dallas Wiens it was feeling his daughter's kisses again that was the major break through.
The 26-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas was able to show three-year-old Scarlette his new face last week, and today he unveiled his new features to the rest of the world for the first time.
Speaking at a press conference today Mr Wiens said being able to hold little Scarlette had been the best gift. And on seeing his new face the tot had gasped: 'Daddy you're so handsome.'
Now Mr Wiens is planning to head home to Texas to 'be the best father that I can be' and to continue his education.
He first unveiled his new features on today's edition of Good Morning America.
Wearing sunglasses and sporting his usual goatee beard Mr Wiens called being able to feel again 'amazing.'
He said: 'It's an amazing experience to be able just to feel her kiss again after two and a half years of having no feeling whatsoever in my face.
Mr Wiens added that if it hadn't been for little Scarlette he may never have signed off on the gruelling operation that replaced his nose, lips, skin, animation muscles and nerves to power them and give sensations.
'I could have lived like I was, no problem, if I did not have my daughter,' Mr Wiens said. 'But I could not bear the thought of her growing up and being asked questions, "Why does your daddy look different?" And dealing with that all of her childhood.'
Mr Wiens has been recuperating at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts for the past six weeks after the operation that saw a team of more than 30 doctors, nurses and anaesthesiologists work for 15 hours to replace his face.
He suffered life threatening burns after losing control of a lift platform he had been on to repair a church window two-and-a-half years ago.
After toppling over his head had slammed into a live power cable that seared off his face.
Sadly doctors have not been able to restore Mr Wiens' sight but amazingly he can feel sensations and his sense of smell has slowly returned.
And the first thing he smelled? The Lasagne wafting from the hospital's kitchen. 'It smelled really, really good,' Mr Wiens said.
He added: 'To me the face feels natural as if it has become my own. I can never express what I have been given in this procedure and I am indebted for the rest of my life.'
Despite his horrific injuries Mr Wiens, who has no memory of the accident, said if he could go back and change events on that awful day in 2008, he wouldn't.
'Too many good things have happened from it,' he said. 'My family is closer now. I am a way better person now. I'm even a better father.'
'This new face, it's not who I am. The old face wasn't either,' he added. 'Who you are is inside - it's internalized. It's who you show the world.'
Mr Wiens is now ready to go home and resume his life.
Dr Bohdan Pomahac, director of the Brigham and Woman's Hospital Burn Center and the leader of the surgical team described his patient's transformation as 'unreal.'
'It's so profound to see someone who had no face and no soft tissues,' Dr Pomahac told Good Morning America. 'And suddenly there's this new person.'
Speaking to the Dallas Morning News before the surgery Mr Wiens had said: 'I'm a little nervous as you can expect with any major procedure like this. I'm extremely excited over the possibility of just having a normal life back.
‘There's no words to describe what that would be like.’
And today he put his remarkable recovery down to his fighting spirit.
'You have to choose to get bitter or get better,' he said. 'And I chose to get better. I'm only 26 years old so there's a lot of life left to live.'
He admitted that he had no words to express his gratitude for the donor of his face and his family. 'What they did has given me a new life. It's given my daughter a new life.'
Mr Wiens also mentioned how his faith had got him through the darkest days.
'To lean on a strength that is not my own. To know that although I'm in amazing hands here I'm also in God's hands,' he said.
The surgery was paid for by the Department of Defense, which gave the hospital a $3.4million research grant for five transplants.
Mr Wiens is the third person in the U.S. to receive a face transplant - after James Maki, at the same hospital in 2009 and Connie Culp at the Cleveland Clinic in 2008.
But he is the first to have a full face transplant in the U.S.
The world's first full face transplant was performed on a 31-year-old man called ‘Oscar’ in Spain last year.
Just last month Mitch Hunter, from Speedway, Indiana, became the second person in the U.S. to receive a full face transplant.
A team of more than 30 doctors, nurses and other staff again at Brigham and Women's Hospital, worked for more than 14 hours to replace his full facial area.
The 30-year-old army private had been a passenger in a car that slammed into a utility pole bringing it down on top of the occupants in 2001.
Mr Hunter pushed a live wire off the female driver, but in doing so came into contact with cable volts for five minutes, suffering terrible burns.
Registering as an organ and tissue donor on a driver’s licence is not accepted as consent for face donation in the U.S. - as family consent is required.
Mr Wiens was selected for the surgery in October after he shot to the front of a long waiting list because of tests revealing his strong mental resolve.
Twelve face transplants have been performed worldwide since 2005 - ten of them successfully.
A recipient in China died after he stopped taking his anti-rejection medicine and a man in France died after developing a massive infection and suffering a heart attack.
TIMELINE: Face transplants in the U.S.
December 2008: Connie Culp at the Cleveland Clinic - partial face transplant
April 2009: James Maki at Brigham & Women’s Hospital - partial face transplant
March 2011: Dallas Wiens at Brigham & Women’s Hospital - full face transplant
April 2011: Mitch Hunter at Brigham & Women’s Hospital - full face transplant