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December 18, 2008

Transplant Surgeon: Giving People Hope

Posted: 06:09 PM ET

Dr. Maria Siemionow is the head of plastic surgery research at the Cleveland Clinic.  She headed the surgical team that successfully performed America's first face transplant.1clevedrs

DR. SIEMIONOW'S COMMENTARY IS EXCLUSIVE TO THE LKL BLOG.

Four years ago, Cleveland Clinic was the first hospital to gain IRB approval for facial tissue transplantation. It was at that time I came to the realization that my hope to help people with severe facial trauma would one day become a reality. What many of you don’t know is that this idea came to me 20 years ago while working with children. Many of those children suffered from severe facial trauma mostly caused by burns, I was there to perform surgery on their hands, but hoped one day I could help restore their faces and I am proud to say that this team has helped me accomplish that goal.

This surgery took years of planning, hard work and dedication. It also took time to educate society about why this is important. Thousands of people who suffer from severe facial trauma live amongst us everyday…but we don’t see them because they are afraid society won’t accept them. This surgery gives hope to those people.

Once it was announced that we had IRB approval everybody wanted to know when this was going to happen. I was very honest in my response: we weren’t striving to be first; rather we were striving to do this right. The screening process took years, we said from the beginning we would only consider patients who have exhausted all means of conventional surgery, and this surgery was only for those who were out of options. This particular patient had many prior reconstructive procedures- which were successful BUT because of the trauma she suffered– a face transplant was the only way to restore facial function.

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Joanne in Ontario Canada   December 18th, 2008 6:58 pm ET

These surgeons are "Artists" in their field. God Blessed them with this wonderful healing gift.


DON WILSON   December 18th, 2008 8:48 pm ET

REMEMBER THE MOVIE - FACE OFF - with Nick Cage and Travolta? They swapped faces in that movie. Kind of scary that major criminals can now buy new faces and change their identity? Maybe you should have to register for court approval for a new face like you do for a new name?

Don


DON WILSON   December 18th, 2008 8:49 pm ET

Larry King .. Que up clips from FACE OFF with Nicholas Cage. Be cool for the segment tonight.


GirlieGirl   December 18th, 2008 9:07 pm ET

What happened to the patient that she needed a face transplant??? Please ask her that!


Marc Yacht MD   December 18th, 2008 9:11 pm ET

This is another great step forward in the healing arts. However, to bask fully in the sunshine of our accomplishments in health care, we must provide equity and accessibility of health care for every American. We are now topping 50 Million uninsured, hopefully the incoming administration will quickly address this inequity which kills 18,000 uninsured every year. And leaves millions unable to access quality health care.


Greg Patterson   December 18th, 2008 9:56 pm ET

Mr. King, good show, good work, thank you. I think the question is not "what went wrong" but "what went right". I respect and honor President Bush' decision to invade Iraq and go after Sadam Hussan after 9/ll, a place where more Americans died than at Pearl Harbor. I would give a years wages to have a sit down with him, shake his hand and thank him for defending us after that attack. Anyone who thinks that Hussan was not funding Alqueda is incoherent to reality. Sincerely, Greg Patterson, Disabled Vietnam Veteran.


Zelmur   December 18th, 2008 10:09 pm ET

On Obama's choice of pastor Rick Warren and the outrage expressed by the gay community.
Gay rights are exposited as minority rights. However, they are not just like any other minority rights, they are to be espoused as minority rights, civil rights and political rights. Each gay person under the constitution is afforded the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They deserve the honour and respect that is the right of every male and female. There is a problem however when gay rights are equated with every other minority right. For example Tiger Woods race base minority rights are a result of being discriminated against for being a black man – just for being that which he is... just simply being. On the other hand, the gay person is discriminated against for making a lifestyle choice – that being that which he does. Given this line of reasoning the morality question is nullified by a more powerful argument that is a political one which equates gay rights with all other minority rights under the auspices of civil liberties. I agree that as a highly exclusive group a very powerful one I might add, as some gays like Barney Frank also have majority rights as a white man. (Are they willing to give up these rights for strictly minority rights? Is this not rights double dipping?)
I agree that gays should have the right to civil unions and to execute their estates in the manner they wish. However, to change the constitution to reflect the definition of marriage as a right of otherness needs a test that all other minorities "on its face" have had to prove that they had an inherent right to promulgate their right to life, liberty and the pursuit to happiness because of the propagation of who they are, the hues of of humanity not because of choice. I propose that the same test be given to gays that they promulgate their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by way of propagation of who they are, not because of a choice they have made or else we would repeat the same misgivings of giving rights to some otherness other than individuals.


Joe Sanchez   December 18th, 2008 10:30 pm ET

Saddam Hussein did not attack us. After all the lies about al Queda in Iraq the administration now admits that that was not true. They spred false information even though Hans Blix, the U.N.'s top investigator looking for WMD's said there were no WMD's in Iraq in no uncertain terms. I personally would have much prefered bringing bin Laden to justice instead of letting his relations leave the country when all our airports were closed and invading Iraq which posed no military threat . If George Bush had kept his focus on bin Laden, captured him and then gone after Saddam I think history would judge him differently. As it stands now he will go down as the worst president in U.S. history for this and many other reasons including Guantanamo and the loss of fundamental American rights .


Robin   December 19th, 2008 12:55 am ET

Holy Crap! This is awesome! There is hope for those I see suffer through the ugly faces of the untarished. Those who have been burned in such a manner go day to day, not wanting to smile or be seen because of the scars and scar tissue left as a result of a horrible accident. They have hope to return to their lives as they were with a greater appreciation for medical science. With out the curius and sometimes hurtful stares of the common and sometimes cruel individual


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