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The Revolutionary Whole-Eye and Partial Face Transplant: Changing Lives in Arkansas

A surgical team at NYU Langone Health in New York had performed the world's first successful whole-eye transplant in a living person: Aaron James. In the aftermath of an accident at work that resulted in the loss of Aaron's left eye and part of his face, he received a partial face transplant as well as a new window for his soul.

Upon looking into Aaron's new eye for the first time, Meagan noticed the post-surgery swelling and noticed that it was brown. Aaron naturally has ocean-blue eyes. His new nose, lips, and cheeks, which already had some beard stubble, all caught her attention. When she saw a face filled with gratitude, the emotions began to flow. Her husband had been with her for 20 years, and she was delighted for him. Meagan described the experience as a crazy, great, weird, strange, ecstatic, happy feeling. “I was just happy he made it through, and everything was good in the moment.”

During that day in late May, more than 140 surgeons at NYU Langone Health performed Aaron's transplantation procedure, which lasted about 21 hours. It involved transplanting the entire left eye and parts of the face from a single donor.

NYU Langone Health Aaron James, 46, with surgeon Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who performed his whole-eye and partial face transplant. According to his medical team, the eye is showing “remarkable” signs of health. Even though he can't see out of the eye, he remains optimistic that vision might come with time, and that his groundbreaking procedure may help advance transplant science.

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