Friday, April 18, 2008

Living with a new face

WHAT IF YOU woke up with a new face staring at you in the mirror?
Would you be able to adjust either medically or emotionally to such a reality?
Would your family and your friends be able to accept this new identity?
Of course, changing identities has been a familiar subject in both movies and books for decades.
I've read them and, probably, so have you.
When I brought up the subject a few years ago, it was shortly after Isabelle Dinoire had received the first partial face transplant.
When I wrote that Dec. 5, 2005 column, I pointed out changing identities had been featured in Desmond Bagley's 1973 novel, The Tightrope Men, and quoting from the book blurb: "Giles Denison's life is turned upside down when he awakes to find himself in a luxurious hotel in Oslo and, peering into the bathroom mirror, discovers the face of another man.
"He has been kidnapped from his flat in London and transformed into famous Finnish scientist, Dr. Harold Feltham Meyrick. Compelled to adjust to his new persona (including meeting his daughter) and to play out the role assigned to him by his captors, he embarks on a dangerous escapade from Norway to Finland and across the border into Soviet Russia."
So in real life, how would you adjust?
Would you accept your fate or would you be a basket case if such a thing happened?
In that earlier column I quoted newsman Matthew Campbell of the Sunday Times of Britain as saying the 38-year-old Dinoire had, in November, 2005, received facial features from another 38-year-old woman, who had committed suicide.
Apparently, Dinoire had been terribly disfigured six months earlier when her pet Labrador chewed her face after she had passed out from an overdose of sleeping pills.
Of course, the story has expanded in the intervening years and now it's known that Dinoire lost portions of her nose, lips, chin and even parts of her cheeks, according to an Associated Press story.
While the surgery received world-wide attention, both physicians and psychologists commented on the emotional scars, which could remain after such a transformation.
Also In the 2005 column, Dr. James Partridge of Changing Faces, which deals with facially disfigured people, claimed that another 10 years of research was needed to alleviate those emotional issues.
Even the slightest change in appearance can have a dramatic effect on a person.
A case in point are for those, who have had massive weight loss, from anywhere as little as 10 pounds to more than 100.
It could be so much more dramatic if one would lose their previous facial identity.
I remember that a former newspaper colleagueof mine losing at least 50 pounds of body weight and her personality changed from being a dour individual to an outgoing and personable writer.
However, the transition didn't remain; for inwardly she was still insecure and, eventually, she reverted to the "dour" personality despite the "new look."
In December. 2007, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that Dinoire's recovery had been "remarkable," however, there had been complications.
According to a CTV report, those included, "kidney failure and two episodes in which her body's immune system tried to reject the new skin."
It's expected, however, any complications that Dinoire has had to endure will not deter those anxiously awaiting facial transplants in the future.
SPEAKING OF FACES: Lali has two noses, two pairs of lips and two pairs of eyes and only two ears, according to Debra Killalea in a recent London Daily Mail report. The small Indian baby, from the village of Saini, north east of New Delhi, has been greeted with cheering and offerings, rather than being rejected. While medical experts claim Lali was born with a condition known as craniofacial duplication, villagers claim she's the "reincarnation" of the Indian god Ganesha.


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