The Grapevine

This Woman’s Immune System Is Rejecting Her Face, Forcing Her To Remove It

A woman from Manchester may have her face removed due to problems with her immune system. It would be the third face of Carmen Blandin Tarleton.

The 51-year-old underwent her transplant in 2013 that gave her second face at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Tarleton was a victim of domestic violence.

Her ex-husband doused her in lye that severely burned more than 85 percent of her body in 2007. Tarleton said her donor face helped her move on and live a normal life after the incident. 

"It has given me incredible amounts of healing in many ways," Tarleton told WMUR-TV. "I’ve done many, many things because I had a face transplant."

But doctors recently found tissue damage in her face, which may require another transplant from a different donor. In 2018, Tarleton started to find redness and swelling around her new face that later affected her cornea. 

Doctors said the problem continued until August and led to either narrowed or closed blood vessels in her face, USA Today reported Monday. These changes significantly damaged her facial tissue. 

Tarleton currently is being evaluated for another face transplant. There are some health problems that may affect her next face. 

Doctors said her synthetic cornea already failed, which left her almost entirely blind. Her immune system also needs to respond properly to the procedure to enable her body to accept her third face. 

If the facial tissue continues to rapidly fail, doctors might just reconstruct Tarleton’s original face. This procedure would leave her with disfigurement.

"It is my wish and my choice to be retransplanted," Tarleton said. "I’ll give up when I’m gone. If I’m here, I’m just going to move forward."

Face Transplant and Risks

Tarleton’s case is not the first time a donor face is being rejected by the body. Transplants commonly fail in the years after the procedure, according to Brian Gastman, a transplant surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic who led the first U.S. face transplant in 2008.

A man from France previously underwent a second transplant after his body rejected his first donor face, The Washington Post reported Monday. Doctors noted transplanted organs are not expected to stay functional for a lifetime. 

Around the world, surgeons only conducted face transplants 40 times. So far, there are no long-term studies conducted to determine the procedure’s risks and effects. 

Old woman Carmen Blandin Tarleton, of Manchester, was a victim of domestic violence who received her face transplant in 2013. Pixabay