Face and double hand transplant recipient isnt bothered by people staring
The recipient of the world’s first double hand and face transplant has opened up about settling into his new identity after suffering from a horrific car accident.
Joe, from Clark, New Jersey, was only 22 when he had been leaving work early one morning and fell asleep at the wheel, causing his sports car to flip and catch on fire.
The young adult’s injuries were so devastating – he suffered third degree burns to over 80% of his body – that doctors put him into a coma for three and a half months to try to repair the damage he had sustained.
And, after months of rehabilitation, Joe was referred to Dr Eduardo Rodriguez, who performed a 23 hour-long surgery to transplant the face and hands of a man who had died from a stroke onto the crash survivor.
Sharing his story in an interview as part of LadBible’s No Filter series, Joe spoke candidly about coming to terms with his new look, both before and after receiving the revolutionary transplant.
Joe remembered the first time he had regained consciousness in hospital after the crash, recalling: “They didn’t really tell me anything, they just told me I looked good… I felt like, yeah, I probably looked like the old me, but in their terms, I looked good medically.”
In fact, Joe looked very different when he woke up, with skin grafts being taken from his back and thighs to tackle the burns on his arms and chest.
But, despite the shock of his new appearance, Joe remembered reacting well to his new identity.
“The first time I saw myself… I wasn’t really emotional, I didn’t really cry about it, I was more interested in how skin could look like that because I’d never seen a burnt person before,” he said, reflecting on the time before his face transplant.
“I didn’t want to be like, ‘oh I look so bad and I’m not gonna do anything about it’, so I just stuck to the workouts they were giving me to get out of the hospital.
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And, now venturing out in public, Joe suggested that he understands people being curious about his appearance.
“Everyone handles it differently, and my thing was just keep moving forward, don’t think about how you look,” he explained.
“Everyone’s going to look at you no matter how you look, so it’s like don’t really think about it. Even if you had normal skin, they still looked at you, so it’s like, ‘who cares?’
“In my eyes, if someone looked like me I would stare too, so it didn’t really bother me.”
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As it turned out, one stranger even became so intrigued by Joe’s story that she ended up dating him.
Also contributing to the No Filter episode, Jess Kirby explained how she had followed Joe on Instagram, before the pair connected over their love of dogs on the platform.
“It’s a miracle that he’s here, so I think for him to go through what he’s gone through but maintain a positive and ambitious outlook is really rare. Every day it inspires me,” she said.
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