At the age of 22, Joe DiMeo rediscovered a range of sensations on the hands and face, from warmth to cool and from wet to touching another person.
DiMeo is still getting used to his hands and face. He’s had her for less than six months, the product of breakthrough surgery after a fiery accident, leaving stumps where fingers used to be and badly disfigured his old face.
“You know, it’s really surprising to me when something new touches it, or when I touch something new and I can feel it for the first time,” he said in an interview.
DiMeo said he was driven by the goal of moving out of his childhood home in Clark Township, New Jersey, and even getting back behind the wheel of a car.
“Driving is the biggest goal I’ve ever had,” he said.
It was driving that sparked his nightmare.
When DiMeo came home from his night shift as a product tester on July 14, 2018, his car crashed, rolled over and exploded. He had third degree burns over 80% of his body.
He spent four months in the burn department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey, partially in a coma, and underwent about 20 reconstructive surgeries that left him with limited hands and face.
Fortunately, in March 2019, DiMeo was given to Dr. Referred to by Eduardo Rodriguez, who heads the plastic surgery department at NYU Langone Health and has performed three successful face transplants.
On August 12, Rodriguez led a team of more than 140 surgeons, nurses, and other staff in a 23-hour procedure that gave DiMeo a makeover and a new pair of hands in the first such double transplant ever performed.
“We didn’t just want to give him an operation that made him look better, but that ultimately had to work ideally, especially with his hands,” said Rodriguez.
DiMeo’s recovery is still in the works, with up to five hours of rehab a day, but Rodriguez said his patient is doing amazingly well.
“It is evidence of him as an individual, his dedication to his therapy and his willingness not to give up,” said Rodriguez.
DiMeo marks his progress by thinking about the things he can do right now, like fixing his own breakfast and doing his own workouts. But it doesn’t slow down.
“I see myself, you know? It’s coming back very quickly … it’s me now,” he said. “You just have to roll with the punches whatever life throws at you.”
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)