It took a lot of manpower and a total of 14 hours, but today Mitch Hunter has a brand new face.
The Speedway, Indiana native was involved in a horrific car accident in 2001. Hunter was driving with a friend and his girlfriend at the time, when their car ran straight into a utility pole.
In an effort to save his girlfriend, Hunter put his life in serious danger. He told the UK’s Daily Mail, “She got out and was hit by a live wire. I jumped out and pushed her away from the wire.”
Although his girlfriend suffered serious electrical burns on her foot, Hunter got the worst of it. The electricity from the wire traveled from his foot, through his entire body, and exited out of his right hand and face. The 10,000-volt electrical shock should have killed him, but Hunter was a fighter in every sense of the word.
Hunter explained, “Most of it exited my face. I flat-lined twice on the way to the hospital. They used paddles to shock me back to life.”
Although the medics saved his life that day, he lost his leg and the fingers on the hand that received the electrical shock. His face was also left horribly disfigured, which gave him a lot of unwanted attention.
“Anywhere we went, it was just constant stares,” confessed Billy Ellis, Hunter’s childhood friend. “It upset him. He was used to some of it, but it still upset him. To have little kids look at him and call him the boogie man and monster—I couldn’t believe what it would feel like to be called that.”10 years later, Hunter’s life changed completely.
With the help of lead plastic surgeon Dr. Bohdan Pomahac and his dedicated team of physicians and nurses at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mitch Hunter received a full-face transplant. Only two other Americans in history have had this groundbreaking cosmetic surgery.
An anonymous donor provided the face, and his family wishes to remain anonymous.
The 14-hour operation completely replaced Hunter’s major facial features including his eyelids, nose, and lips.
The most incredible part of the surgery however, was the replacement of the facial animation muscles and nerves, which will allow Hunter to make facial expressions, and actually feel them.
Dr. Pomahac said the complex procedure went well, and he expects Hunter to have a full recovery, and most importantly, a new and improved life.
“He’s done very well and itching to get home. He has a great environment and will be taken care of well locally,” Dr. Pomahac told the press.
Today, the 30-year-old army private and father of a son and twin daughters, is overjoyed with the results of his surgery.
Hunter described the feeling of seeing his new face for the first time in just one word: Amazing.
He said, “It was better than I ever expected it would look like.”
After a total of 10 years and 57 operations on his face, Hunter can now venture out into public and simply blend in, which for him is the best part.
He said, “I didn’t get stared at like I used to. I like it. Little kids don’t even notice me anymore. I’m just another face in the crowd.”
Recovering from his full-face transplant is taking a little adjusting. Hunter has to take anti-rejection medications for the rest of his life, and will also have to do some rehabilitation to restore natural movement and feeling in his face. Hunter performs exercises like moving his lips and whistling, and doctors say that full feeling in his face will return in about a month.
The only thing Hunter can think about now is the donor family that literally helped transform his life. He hopes to meet them one day to thank them in person. He said, “I’ll forever be thankful for their generosity, and I will never forget what they did.”
For now, Hunter is required to stay in Boston until his anti-rejection medication levels are perfected. When asked about his return home, Hunter had just one thing to say, “I can’t wait to see my kids.”
A total of 11 face transplants have been performed worldwide since the first operation in 2005. Judging from the results of Hunter’s surgery, reconstructive plastic surgeons are more skilled than ever before, which brings major hope for future patients.
This amazing medical feat gives the term facelift a whole new meaning, and has certainly changed the face of plastic surgery forever.
To learn more about reconstructive plastic surgery procedures, contact a plastic surgeon in your area.
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.