I caught the end of Horizon on BBC last Tuesday night and it immediately caught my attention. There was a picture of what looked like a dentist cleaning a woman's teeth, except the woman had no lips, nose or chin and no skin on the bottom of her face. It was a little like something out of a horror story, and knowing my love of horror, I was hooked. The scene then cut to an ordinary enough woman walking through some woods in France talking about how good it was to be outside again. My curiosity peeked, I went on line and did a search for this woman - Isabelle Dinoire. Her story is a sad one. She received terrible injuries to her lower face, losing her nose, lips and chin and had to wear a mask (as one would) until a French surgeon agreed to do the first face transplant. He grafted on the nose and lower face of another woman and the operation was a success. Now, this is interesting enough. While medical science is not quite up to par with face transplants as seen in Humphrey Bogart movies and Face Off, scalp transplants, ear and nose transplants have been completed successfully. Some points of interest about Isabelle's face transplant: -
1. The 'donor' was a 'brain dead' woman who had attempted to hang herself (which means the poor woman was killed to get her face. I hope they gave her pain killers as they removed the skin)
2. The surgeon who performed the operation also performed the first hand transplant (what! they are doing that too now? Hope the 'donor' wasn't a killer, wouldn't want to have an evil hand!)
3. Isabelle will have to be on immunosuppressants for the rest of her life, to keep her body from rejecting her new face. Now, I know that people who get kidney transplants and such have to do this too, and there is a surprisingly high rejection rate. However, while it would be awful having your new kidney rejected, imagine waking up one morning and having your face rejected! Wouldn't that be awful (this is where we need cloning to make new faces!)
4. Isabelle couldn't smoke, talk and found it difficult to eat while she was missing her face.
5. Doctors have warned her not to smoke again as it could participate a rejection of her new face, but, undaunted, Isabelle has lit up again.
6. Isabelle's new face doesn't resemble either her old face or the donors. She now has fuller lips and a different shaped nose.
Ok, so that is interesting enough in itself but I wouldn't be blogging about her if that was it. Face transplants, while I know they are an amazing medical breakthrough, don't interest me that much. I've been brought up reading about them and seeing them in fiction, so the real thing pales a little in comparison. However, the way Isabelle lost her face really interests me. Allegedly, she took sleeping pills and, while unconscious, her pet Labrador ate her face! Now, while I don't doubt a dog could easily maul away someone's lips, nose and mouth, I don't understand why her pet would do this without provocation. How long was she unconscious? Was the dog starving? Did various searches on the net to see if there was a precedent for this, but didn't find any similar stories apart from starving dogs eating their dead owners (seemed to be a lot of Labradors doing it too - does this mean Labradors are man eaters, or they are just really popular breeds?)
Anyway, face transplants aside, the real story is how she got injured. What made the dog do this to her (if he did it at all?) I can't understand why the media haven't jumped on this. All the news stories mention the dog attack as a throw away line, as if this were normal. It isn't normal. Dogs do these things for a reason. I can't think of any reason why a dog, a pet, would do this to a sleeping woman without provocation. Anyone else think that this is the most interesting part of the story and that there is something very odd about it?
Either way, the poor woman did lose her face somehow and that would be a very traumatic and horrible thing to happen.