Face transplant recipient, one of world's first, says donor face has started to fail

BOSTON — A woman who received one of the world's first full face transplants is now dealing with some setbacks.

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In 2007, Carmen Blandin Tarleton was brutally attacked by her estranged husband when he beat and doused her with a chemical, burning more than 80% of her body.

Tarleton, now 50, was one of the first five people in the country to ever get a full face transplant, undergoing more than 50 surgeries that would eventually change her life.

In February 2013, a donor was identified and Tarleton received the full transplant at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"So when I stop and think about it, I’ve had this face transplant for 6 1/2 years and I think that’s really good, and it served me very well, so I have no regrets," said Tarleton.

Tarleton said it was a game changer, a surgery that provided her more quality of life and eventually she was living pain-free.

Now, however, Tarleton's body is beginning to reject the transplant, and as a result, some of the facial tissue is beginning to die.

In August, Tarleton began to notice how the years of small episodes of rejection had culminated to the skin on her face breaking down.

The same hospital where Tarleton got her life-changing transplant is determining the next steps in her care, which could include skin grafting, reconstruction and maybe another face transplant.On her end, Tarleton is hoping for a second transplant. Despite all these setbacks, she continues to provide hope for others in similar situations and told WFXT that her physical issues are not impacting what she calls her "purpose in life."

"In sharing that with you, in being in the media, it’s part of what I do," said Tarleton. "I can’t help anybody if they don’t know who I am."

When asked what kind of impact she hopes to have on others, Tarleton said:

"Whatever they’re gotta go through in their life that I can inspire them just by being who I am, just by my story. And even, you know sometimes you help people in a little way."

In a statement, Brigham and Women's Hospital told WFXT:

"The clinical team remains focused on maintaining Carmen’s quality of life, which has been much improved since her transplant six years ago. The team is grateful for Carmen’s partnership and for her commitment to the face transplant program."

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