French partial face transplant allowes people to live again

A year and a half after receiving the world's first partial face transplant, Isabelle Dinoire says the operation allowed her to live like a normal person again, though she feels a part of her identity has disappeared.

"I have returned to the planet of human beings - those with a face, a smile, facial expressions that let them communicate. I am alive again," the Frenchwoman told Le Monde newspaper.

Dinoire was severely disfigured in May 2005 by her pet Labrador. In November 2005, surgeons grafted the lips, nose and chin of a brain-dead woman onto her face in groundbreaking surgery.

Dinoire's immune system nearly rejected the transplant twice, but she was given immuno-depressants that helped overcome the threat.

In Le Monde, Dinoire described the moment when she felt sensation in her new face after the operation: "It was like pins and needles in my cheeks, my chin. Almost like bolts of electricity."

Dinoire said she has not yet found a job and that she continues therapy to improve the movement in her new features, saying she still has trouble pursing her lips for a kiss.

"As for this face ... it's not me," she told Le Monde. "It will never be me ... A part of me and my identity disappeared forever. And I have precious memories of what I was."

She thinks often of the donor and her family.

"I want so much for them to be very proud of their gesture," she said. "And for them to know that I will thank them all my life."