The first total facial transplant in a black-skinned patient, the 15th person to undergo this procedure in the United States, took place in Boston. In Paris in 2007, a black patient had already had the transplant, but only partially.
Robert Chelsea, 68, is also the oldest person to have the transplant. A native of the city of Los Angeles, he suffered severe burns on more than 60% of his body, including his face, when he suffered a car accident caused by a drunk driver in 2013. The patient went into a coma for six months, remaining in the hospital for about a year and a half.
Click here if you want to see what Robert Chelsea's face looked like before.
There were more than 30 surgeries performed in Chelsea, but it was not possible to reconstruct their lips, part of the nose and left ear, so it had to be placed on the waiting list for facial transplant in March last year.
Difficulties Finding Black Skin Donors
Unlike other people on the waiting list, the patient had to wait a little longer to be called for surgery due to the difficulty of finding a donor with a skin tone that resembled the original.
According to Health Department data from the Office of Minority Health Services, in 2015, about 30% of transplant candidates were black, compared with only 13.5% black-skin donors.
Alexandra Glazier, CEO and president of New England Donor Services, said in a statement that it is vitally important for individuals of all races and ethnicities to consider organ donation, including skin grafting. "Unlike internal organs, donor skin tone is the most important requirement for finding compatibility," he said.
Chelsea's surgery took 16 hours and took place in July this year with a team of more than 45 doctors, nurses, anesthetists, residents and researchers, all led by plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahac.
Fortunately, the patient is recovering fast. In just 10 days after surgery, Chelsea was able to eat, talk and breathe without help.
Source: USA Today