Travolta and Cage Were Ahead of the Curve

Yesterday’s science fiction is today’s reality (well, almost).  Surgeons in Cleveland performed the first “near total” face transplant in the United States.  In fact, nowhere else in the world has such an extensive facial transplant been performed.  The recipient received all but forehead, upper eyelids, lower lip and  jaw from a donor cadaver.  The recipient had sustained facial trauma so severe that she had to breathe through an opening in her windpipe and could not eat.  She will have to take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of her life.

Not exactly like Face Off/Face On, but movies are allowed poetic license.

Every day I’m amazed by the changes and advances in medicine.  Every day I wonder what’s good or bad about it.  Every day I’m in awe of the physicians and surgeons who are the pioneers.  But even more in awe of the people who have the courage to be the recipients of this new medicine.

I always wonder – what would I do?  A new hip?  A new organ?  New skin?  A new face?  When would I say “yes” and when would I say “no”?  When would I say “enough”, let my life run its course?  When does life become just existence?

Yet, it is so amazing.  This woman can now eat, breathe and talk on her own.  I don’t know how “normal” she will look, but she will be able to at least function more normally – with a price.  Immunosuppressive drugs that will need fine tuning and can fail at any time.

When would I say “yes” and when would I say “no”?  Hopefully a question to be answered very far in the future.


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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