A 25-year-old Fort Worth, Tex., man who needs a rare face transplant may not be able to get one because he has been declared officially blind, the Dallas Morning News reported Sunday.
Dallas Wiens lost his facial features in an accident involving a live power line 19 months ago. His right eye was covered by smooth skin grafts, and he hoped he would be able to see out of it when it was uncovered by an operation.
After the operation, Wiens said, "The doctor held up some fingers, but I couldn't see them. They shone a light at the eye from different angles and asked me if I could see it. Unfortunately, I could not."
Wiens’ blindness is an issue because some doctors believe a blind person would not be able to tell if his body was rejecting a transplant, and some doubt that a blind transplant recipient could perform exercises that would help rejuvenate the new face or keep track of a post-transplant medication regimen.
The Cleveland Clinic, which performed the first-ever face transplant in the U.S., said it is no longer considering blind patients due to those concerns.
Wiens is now working with doctors at Boston’s Brigham and Women's Hospital on a face transplant.
"Some rules have been referenced and cited that blind patients should not be considered for transplant," said Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a plastic surgeon at Brigham and Women's who performed a face transplant last year.
"We are writing an article that's going to be submitted for publication that argues the opposite."
Wiens said he looks at his blindness as “another hurdle I have to get over."
"I'm young enough. Maybe they'll figure out how to fix eyes in the next few decades," he said.