A 25-year-old man from Fort Worth, Texas, who lost his face, his vision, and his health insurance is now on a waiting list at a Boston hospital for a face transplant.
Dallas Wiens learned on Friday that he is a candidate for a face transplant at Brigham and Women's Hospital, according to a story in the Dallas News. A team at the Brigham performed the nation's second face transplant last year.
Wiens has made two trips to the hospital to be evaluated. He is now on the face transplant candidate list maintained by the New England Organ Bank.
"Itís exciting, but as with any life altering decision, I am a little nervous," he said in a statement issued by the Brigham today. "I have lived without functionality and sensation for nearly two years. The opportunity to regain both of these through the facial transplant process has been hard to believe. I know the recovery will be long and will take a lot of work, but I have met every challenge thrown at me thus far."
Two years ago an electrical fire burned the skin off his face and destroyed his features. His face was reconstructed by the burn team at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, but there are only indentations where his eyes and nose are. He also lost his upper lip and the roof and insides of his mouth, as well as most of his teeth, the Dallas News story says.
Medicaid in Texas had covered his bills at Parkland, the story says, but his government disability payments pushed his income over state Medicaid limits. He would need that coverage to pay for anti-rejection drugs after a transplant, which cost about $1,700 a month. But a solution was found through the new federal health care law, which allows him to be covered by his parents' policy.
The US Defense Department would pay for the surgery itself, which costs about $300,000, the Dallas News said, as part of its program with the Brigham to learn how to help soldiers who suffer severe facial injuries.
Wiens is asking for help, for himself and others.
"In an effort to help meet the financial challenges that comes with this endeavor, I have established a donation fund and Texas non-profit to help cover costs and to enable me to help other burn survivors in need of facial reconstruction. I also hope that by sharing my news I can help to show that behind every person with facial disfigurement is a human being," he said.
In Boston, the New England Organ Bank will evaluate deceased organ donors to see if they match Wiens, including by blood type, skin tone, and age. Even if the person had registered as a donor, consent will be sought from next of kin, according to a statement from Brigham surgeon Dr. Bohdan Pomahac. There is no time frame for this part of the process, he said.
"Dallas has already completed the screening process and we have made arrangements for his health insurance to cover his post-operative immunosuppressant medications. We have suggested that once Dallas is listed he be prepared to travel to Boston at a momentís notice, as a suitable donor may become available at any time," he said.
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