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Nation's First Full Face Transplant a 'Life-Giving Operation'

  • Dallas Wiens Before and After

    Dallas Wiens, before and after the full face transplant procedure performed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in March 2011. (Left image courtesy of Parkland Health Hospital System, Dallas, Texas. Right image by Lightchaser Photography.)

  • Dallas Wiens and Daughter

    Dallas Wiens said the first thing his young daughter said to him when she saw him after the operation was "Daddy, you're so handsome." (Lightchaser)

  • Dallas Wiens Reveals Face

    During the marathon surgery, Wiens received a new nose, lips, skin, muscle and nerves from an anonymous donor.

Dallas Wiens, the nation’s first full face transplant recipient, sported a goatee and dark glasses in his first public appearance Monday since the 15-hour procedure in March that he said changed his life forever.

The 26-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, man joined surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston as he prepares to leave the hospital after many weeks.

Wiens said the first thing his young daughter said to him when she saw him after the operation was "Daddy, you're so handsome."

During the marathon surgery, Wiens received a new nose, lips, skin, muscle and nerves from an anonymous donor.

"I would like to start by saying there are no words to truly describe the depth of gratitude or love that I have for the donor's family," Wiens said at the press conference. "The choice that they made has in a real and very great way, changed my life and my daughter’s. From the bottom of my heart, and I know from the bottom of hers, we both thank you very much."

In November 2008, Wiens was working on a cherry picker when his head touched a high-voltage power line. It sent so much electricity through his body that he suffered fourth-degree burns over his entire face.

"I've called this operation life-giving and in Dallas' case you will understand why. You have seen images of Dallas before the transplant and after his tragic injury," Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, director of the Burn Center at Brigham and Women's and a plastic surgeon, said. "He was quite literally a man without a face. This face transplant will allow Dallas, who by all accounts is a devoted father, to more fully participate in Scarlette's life. That's a true gift."

Less than a month after Wiens’ surgery – which was paid for by the U.S. military in an effort to use the knowledge from this experience to help soldiers with severe facial wounds – doctors at Brigham and Women’s performed another face transplant.

This time, 30-year-old Mitch Hunter from Speedway, Ind., received a new nose, eyelids, lips, facial animation muscles and the nerves that power them and provide sensation. It took a team of more than 30 doctors, nurses and other medical staff to complete the more than 14-hour operation.

A high-voltage electrical wire caused Hunter’s injuries during a 2001 car accident.

About a dozen face transplants have been done worldwide.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.