Medical Research

published : 2023-11-10

Arkansas military veteran receives world’s first whole-eye and partial-face transplant

A groundbreaking surgery at NYU Langone Health gives Aaron James a new lease on life

Aaron James before the accident, serving in the National Guard for 10 years. (Taken with Nikon D850)

A military veteran from Hot Springs, Arkansas, has become the recipient of the world’s first-ever whole-eye and partial-face transplant.

Aaron James, 46, experienced a life-altering accident while working as an electrical lineman in 2021, where his face came into contact with a live wire and resulted in a 7,200-volt electric shock.

As a result of the accident, James lost his left eye, most of his left arm, his nose and lips, his front teeth, his left cheek area, and his chin, leaving him with severe facial disfigurement.

However, thanks to a groundbreaking surgery that took place at NYU Langone Health, James underwent a 21-hour procedure led by Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, director of the Face Transplant Program.

The surgical team, consisting of more than 140 medical professionals, successfully transplanted an entire left eye and a portion of a face from a single donor, marking the world's first transplant of a whole human eye combined with a partial face.

Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez discussing the groundbreaking surgery with Aaron James. (Taken with Canon EOS R5)

Since the surgery, James has shown remarkable progress in his recovery. He recently spoke at a press conference, expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to regain his vision and restore his quality of life.

Having been initially uncertain about the possibility of a face transplant, James chose NYU Langone and Dr. Rodriguez for their renowned expertise in the field.

He credits the expertise of the medical team, along with the support from his family, for helping him through this challenging journey.

Dr. Rodriguez, thrilled by the success of the surgery, emphasized the tremendous feat accomplished and the impact it will have on future advancements in the field of transplantation.

Although it's still uncertain if James will regain full sight in his transplanted eye, there are encouraging signs of direct blood flow to the retina, giving hope for potential visual restoration.

Aaron James at a press conference, expressing his gratitude for the successful transplant. (Taken with Sony Alpha a7 III)

Regardless of the visual outcome, the cosmetic transformation alone is considered a remarkable achievement.

James has been hailed as an ideal patient, displaying exceptional motivation to regain lost functions and independence.

His journey serves as an inspiration to all individuals facing severe facial and ocular injuries.

James will continue his post-operative follow-up care at NYU Langone while cherishing the gift of a new life.