Thursday, May 23, 2013


What happens when the center of your face and skull are suddenly destroyed by a machine meant to cut stone.......and you don't die. Amazingly, Grzegorz was kept alive by healthcare teams in Poland for three weeks but had no ability to speak or breathe independently. The raw surfaces that had been grotesquely cut left him vulnerable to infections of the bone, central nervous system, throat, bloodstream, etc. By reports, his medical condition was deteriorating, as one would expect. How could he live this way for long? His Polish doctors arrived at a dramatic solution - one they felt technically prepared to perform though it had never before been attempted or accomplished. An emergency face transplant  was necessary to save his life. And they succeeded, at least in the early phase. The transplant was one week ago. So far, so good! And now there is a short term survivor. Thanks to their expertise and hard work......and thanks to the gift of the deceased donor.

Within a few years of the very first face transplant having been performed, world citizens are almost insensitive to the magnitude of the evolutionary steps we are so rapidly witnessing. Yeah, just another face transplant - what's the big deal?! Well, the big deal in this situation is truly enormous. First, the concept of successful face transplantation had already been established.  When Grzegorz was in need, the procedure had already been developed and was in his surgeon's repertoire. Though the Polish team had not performed a previous face transplant, they had prepared as best they could on the basis of the limited, collective world experience. No one could have completed their own "learning curve" for this procedure yet since fewer than 30 cases have been performed worldwide. This is what innovative and bold surgeons do best. We must find ways to promote, not suppress these tendencies in surgeons when they are appropriate. Look at the result!

Whether Grzegorz lives (as we all fervently hope) or dies, it seems that this face transplant was really his only chance. Without having reviewed his records (which I have not) it seems that what distinguished his injury from the other face transplant recipients was the depth of the wound and exposure of the protective layers of the brain. These features were probably why his team felt that infection(s) would inevitably cause his demise if covering to the portals for micro-organisms could not be established. And those infectious critters were in plentiful supply because of the simultaneous injuries to the respiratory and oropharyngeal pathways, each of which harbor abundant quantities. The desperately required covering was the bone and soft tissue of the face that was transplanted. Could a face be found and transplanted before irreversible and lethal infection set in? This is what we are all waiting to learn. Was the patient's life still salvageable? Was the gamble worth it?