Recovery after World’s First Successful Face and Double Hand Transplant

Joe DiMeo from Clark, New Jersey became the world’s first successful face and double hand transplant recipient in August 2020. A remarkable team of healthcare professionals led by Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez performed the 23-hour long surgery.

Joe Dimeo was in a car accident in July 2018 that left him with third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body. Additionally, Dimeo had amputated fingertips, no lips, no eyelids and severe facial scarring. He was unable to perform daily activities since his vision was affected and as well as his dexterity. During the surgery, Dimeo’s full face was transplanted including his forehead, eyebrows, both ears, nose, eyelids, lips as well as his skull, cheek, nasal and chin bone segments. Both of his hands and mid-forearm were also reconstructed including 3 nerves, 6 vessels and 21 tendons.

After the surgery, Dimeo recovered in the intensive care unit for several weeks followed by recovery in the rehabilitation inpatient unit at NYU Langone and then outpatient rehab. Due to Dimeo’s extensive needs, he required more rehabilitation than normal transplant patients. He received physical, occupational and speech therapy. Joe received more than five hours of rehab therapy every day. The hand therapy that he received was personalized to his needs due to the skin grafts he received in earlier treatments. Occupational therapy targets both gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills help with strength, balance, coordination and endurance. This can affect activities such as lifting and carrying things. Fine motor skills involve the hand muscles. Occupational therapy helps finer hand movements by increasing strength, dexterity and motor control. With occupational therapy, the goal is that Joe is able to participate in everyday activities such as eating, dressing himself and even playing golf.

Read more about Joe’s procedure and recovery