Vermont lye victim gets new face at Boston hospital

BOSTON — The 2007 chemical attack left the Vermont nurse unrecognizable to anyone who knew her.

But now Carmen Blandin Tarleton’s face has changed again following a facial transplant this month.

Doctors at Brigham &Women’s Hospital in Boston said Wednesday that the 44-year-old’s surgery included transplanting a female donor’s facial skin to Tarleton’s neck, nose and lips, along with facial muscles, arteries and nerves.

“I know how truly blessed I am, and will have such a nice reflection in the mirror to remind myself what selfless really is,” Tarleton wrote on her blog Wednesday.

The Thetford, Vt., woman suffered burns on more than 80 percent of her body and was blinded after her estranged husband attacked her with a baseball bat and doused her with lye in 2007.

Tarleton, who once worked as a transplant nurse, has undergone more than 50 surgeries since the attack, including work to restore some of her vision.

The latest surgery took 15 hours and included a team of more than 30 medical professionals. The lead surgeon, Bohdan Pomahac, called her injuries among the worst he’s seen in his career.

“Carmen is a fighter,” the doctor said Wednesday. “And fight she did.”

Pomahac’s team has performed five facial transplants at the hospital. He said the patient is recovering very well and is in great spirits as she works to get stronger.

He said she was very pleased when she saw her face for the first time, and that her appearance will not match that of the late donor’s face.

“I think she looks amazing, but I’m biased,” he said with a smile.

The donor’s family wants to remain anonymous, but released a statement through a regional donor bank saying that her spirit would live on through Tarleton and three other organ recipients.

The estranged husband, Herbert Rodgers, pleaded guilty in 2009 in exchange for a prison sentence of at least 30 years.

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