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Face Transplant Recipient Appears in Public for First Time

Lisa Bryant

The previously anonymous woman who received the world's first face graft appeared before the media for the first time in France Monday, with a transfigured face, and a name: Isabelle Dinoire. The doctor who performed the transplant wants permission to do more of them.

During a news conference in the French town of Amiens, 38-year-old Isabelle Dinoire spoke with difficulty, as she thanked her doctors, and talked about life since her operation last November.

Since the operation, Dinoire says, she has a face - just like everyone else. She is aware that it will take time and work to recover fully. But she said, even going out on the streets of Lyons, France, three days after the operation, went well. She said she was very well received by people she was in contact with.

The blond-haired French woman wore thick makeup that partially hid the scars that are still visible from her operation. Until now, Dinoire's name has been kept secret under French privacy law. Her speech is still difficult to understand, because of restricted movement of her lips. But she says she is regaining sensation in her lips, nose and mouth.

Dinoire was attacked by a dog last year, and her face was disfigured. The French woman said Monday she was horrified when she saw her face in the mirror after the attack. It was also difficult going out in public and being stared at. She understands, she said, the problems faced by people with handicaps.

Dinoire's partial face transplant sparked worldwide controversy. Critics questioned the ethics and the long-term consequences of the operation.

Dinoire has also resumed smoking since the operation, a habit that doctors worry might hamper her healing.

Despite the risks, Dinoire's doctors say, they have asked permission from French authorities to perform five more face grafts. They say they want to do many more, and give hope to other people in the world who are living with disfigurements.

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