New Face Brings Joy

New Face Brings Joy
Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - 3:24pm

Woman attacked with lye receives face transplant.

(NBC News) Almost three months after a undergoing a full face transplant, Carmen Blandin Tarleton, the 44-year-old Vermont registered nurse horribly disfigured when her estranged husband squirted industrial strength lye all over her body, stroked her new chin with her hand and called the surgery a "wonderful gift."

Tarleton revealed her new face - reconstructed in a 15-hour operation that transplanted a donor's neck, nose, lips, facial muscles, nerves and tendons - Wednesday at a news conference at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Already the new tissue is molding itself to her bone structure, giving her a remarkably normal appearance. There is a barely perceptible droop on the left side, which doctors say may disappear as the newly connected nerves continue to grow. Her right eye, which was completely blinded, remains shut, while her left eye is partially open -- allowing her to see a blurry version of the world. She is legally blind.

"I've been on this incredible journey for the last six years," Tarleton said Wednesday, reading from her iPad on a program that allows her to see text. "The donor and her family have given me a tremendous gift making that is making a significant difference in my quality of life at the daily level. They have relieved a significant amount of my pain and discomfort and for that I am forever grateful."

In an unusual turn, Tarleton met the family of the donor, Cheryl Denelli Righter, whose face and organs were donated to five recipients after she suffered a sudden stroke early in early February 2013.

Righter's daughter, Marinda Righter, hugged and kissed Tarleton. "You're beautiful," she told Tarleton. "Yesterday after meeting you, Carmen, for the first time in a long time I felt overjoyed. For the first time I got to feel my mother's skin, to see my mother's freckles. And through you I get to see my mother live on."

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