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Doctors have managed to complete a rare double transplant, giving a man a new face and pair of hands.
Joe DiMeo, from New Jersey, US, was driving home after finishing a night shift when he fell asleep at the wheel and hit a curb, causing his car to flip and burst into flames in 2018.
The 22-year-old suffered burns to 80 percent of his body and spent the following months in a medically-induced coma before undergoing extensive reconstructive surgery.
Eventually, it became clear that traditional means of care would not work, so specialists decided to attempt the far riskier option of a double transplant.
Last August, surgeons at NYU Langone Health amputated both of Mr DiMeo's hands, replacing them from the middle of his forearm, and connecting blood vessels, nerves and 21 tendons.
They also gave him a full face transplant, with a completely new nose, ears, eyelids, and underlying facial bones.
It has meant he has had to relearn how carry out a range of tasks and functions, from blinking to picking up a knife and fork.
Specialists say so far it has been as success, but that they will have to wait some time yet until they can be certain.
Speaking about the procedure and what he has been through, Mr DiMeo says it's been a long road but that he has managed to remain strong throughout.
He said: "They had to amputate the tip of my fingers and my face was burned.
"I had little slits in my eyes, so it was like looking through like a chain-linked fence.
"I knew it would be baby steps all the way. You've got to have a lot of motivation, a lot of patience.
"And you've got to stay strong through everything."
Mr DiMeo, who lives with his parents, has since undergone intense physiotherapy to get to a point where he can dress himself, exercise and play with his dog.
He said: "You got a new chance at life. You really can't give up."
According to reports, only 35 hand transplants and 18 full face transplants have been carried out worldwide.
Discussing the complexity of the operation, Dr Eduardo Rodriguez, who led the medical team of more than 140 people, said the odds had been stacked against Mr DiMeo.
"The possibility of us being successful based on the track record looked slim," he said.
"It's not that someone has done this many times before and we have a kind of a schedule, a recipe to follow."
But having seen Mr DiMeo living more independently and thriving since the procedure, Dr Rodriguez says he is immensely proud to have helped.
"It's very gratifying to all of us. There's a tremendous sense of pride," he said.
Featured Image Credit: PA
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