Two weeks after the world’s first-ever face transplant recipient was presented in Cleveland, Philadelphia physicians yesterday unveiled the second: 67-year-old Rittenhouse Square widower Vanessa Van Dusen. “We’re thrilled with the progress that Vanessa has made since beginning her transplant in 1998,” beamed lead doctor Algird Mameniskis, speaking to reporters from Rittenhouse Plastic Surgery, where the groundbreaking procedures took place. “It’s just wonderful that Mrs. Van Dusen will now be able to live with the face that she’s always sort of wanted.”
Experts hailed the results of the historic transplant. “Unlike [Cleveland patient] Connie Culp, Vanessa Van Dusen’s treatments were the result of restlessness and low self-esteem, not a shotgun blast to the face,” said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist James Hatty. “Nevertheless, the change from ‘before’ to ‘after’ has been no less as astonishing.” Jefferson University Hospital’s Reed Young listed just a few of the elderly woman’s changes. “Her nose, eyelids, lips, cheeks, forehead, neck, jawline, thighs, ankles, buttocks, breasts… even her earlobes are completely different than they were in 1997,” he said, clearly in awe. “Like Ms. Culp, she may no longer be considered ‘attractive’ in the traditional sense… but that’s an issue for another day.”
Van Dusen, her bandages freshly unwrapped, had nothing but praise for Mameniskis. “I look in the mirror now, and I just can’t believe that it’s me,” she rasped, her voice whistling slightly through drum-taut lips. “But,” she said, her pared-down nose twitching playfully, “I’m not quite sure that I’m done.” Mameniskis seemed pleased by Van Dusen’s courage. “When she came in all those years ago, I honestly wasn’t sure that I could do what she wanted me to do—or even if I should,” he admitted, echoing the initial uncertainty of Culp’s doctors. “But just look at her now. Good God.”
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