Disfigured Vermont Woman Receives Face Transplant

PHOTO: Sisters Kesstan Blandin, left, and Carmen BlanPartners Healthcare Media Releasedin Tarleton are shown in this undated image before Tarleton was attacked by her estranged husband and doused with industrial strength lye.
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A Vermont mom, injured by a lye attack that left her disfigured and legally blind, has received a face transplant at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Carmen Blandin Tarleton, a registered nurse and mother of two from Thetford, Vt., was injured in 2007 when her estranged husband broke into her home, attacked her with a baseball bat and doused her with industrial strength lye.

More than 80 percent of Tarleton's body was burned in the attack and she was placed in a medically induced coma for three months. Even though Tarleton, 44, endured more than 55 surgeries to treat her numerous chemical burns, she was left disfigured, legally blind and unable to move her neck.

"Despite our best efforts, Carmen was left severely disfigured and in constant pain. She would drool almost constantly," Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, the director of plastic surgery transplantation at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told reporters.

Below is a picture of Tarleton before her surgery. Viewer discretion is advised.

Pomahac spent 15 hours leading a surgical team of more than 30 members as they carefully transplanted facial skin, including the neck, nose, lips, facial muscles, arteries and nerves of the donor. Pomahac estimated that Tarleton would regain 75 to 80 percent of facial movement and would slowly regain feeling and motor functions in her face during the next six months to a year.

This is the fifth face transplant performed at the hospital.

Face Transplants Through the Years

Tarleton, who remains at the hospital recovering, thanked her doctors in a statement read to reporters by her sister Kesstan Blandin.

"I feel great appreciation and gratitude for the tremendous gift I've been given," Tarleton said in a statement. "We're all excited to move into this new chapter of our lives together."

Tarleton, who worked as a transplant nurse before her injury, wrote a book about her attack called "Overcome: Burned, Blinded, and Blessed."

"I am so grateful for all that have been watching over me with such tenderness and loving care. I know how truly blessed I am, and will have such a nice reflection in the mirror to remind myself what selfless really is," Tarleton wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.


Carmen Tarleton before her face transplant. (Image credit: Toby Talbot/AP Photo)

More than 20 people have received a face transplant worldwide, since the first successful face transplant was performed in 2005. In just eight years, face-transplant technology has improved tremendously. Last year doctors used 3-D technology and stem cells to perform the world's fullest face transplant on Richard Lee Norris.

While the transplant in 2005 involved just soft tissues, during Norris' transplant doctors were able to transplant an entire face from scalp to neck, including the teeth and muscle.

"I believe that face transplants will eventually become more common, as there are no alternatives that authentically restore our human facial features," Pomahac told ABCNews.com last year.

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