Woman says "Merci" after face transplant

A woman who underwent the world's first partial face transplant regained consciousness 24 hours after the groundbreaking operation and her first words were "thank you," one of her doctors said Friday. Dr. Bernard Devauchelle, one of the two surgeons who operated on the woman, said there were no post-surgical problems and the patient was doing fine.

The 38-year-old woman, a divorced mother of two teenage daughters whose name has not been disclosed, was mauled by a Labrador in May, leaving her with severe facial injuries. She underwent the transplant Sunday at a hospital in Amiens, northern France. The donor was a brain dead woman.

Devauchelle told a news conference that after the woman woke up, she put a finger on the tracheotomy tube in her throat and said, "Merci." Behind him were projected images of the portions that were transplanted a section of the nose, lips and chin.

The woman's injuries had made it difficult for her to speak and eat, her doctors said. However, since the surgery, she has eaten strawberries and chocolate, and drunk coffee and fruit juice, her doctors said, reports ABC News.

Citing other specialists who had examined the woman, Dr. Dubernard said that reconstructive surgery would have been "extremely difficult, if not impossible" in her case.

"We got her permission several times because we wanted to make sure she understood the risks," because of the highly experimental nature of the procedure, Dr. Dubernard said. The patient has told her surgeons to withhold her name, hospital officials said.

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