WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Carmen Tarleton held a press conference at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital Wednesday where doctors performed her face transplant to reveal her new face.
She was attacked by her estranged husband with industrial strength lye. The toxic chemical literally melted her face away.
Facial transplant procedures are very rare, but have advanced tremendously in the past decade.
Dr. Daniel Alam of the Cleveland Clinic and his team performed one of the first facial transplant surgeries on Charla Nash. She nearly died while being attacked by a chimpanze in 2009.
Dr. Alam says, "She was missing her eyes, her nose, her mid-face, her lips, her mouth, the entire front of her face was gone."
She had a large hole in the center of her face and was in a coma for 6 weeks.
Her face was radically improved after a 20-hour triple transplant surgery. She is now able to venture out in public again, not worrying if her face will frighten people.
However, some physicians remain skeptical about whether these procedures are warranted. They are not life-saving, but life-changing. But Dr. Alam suggests that in many cases they are the only shot these patients have for a normal life.
Dr. Alam says, "I always tell people that you can never understand what it is like living without a face, and so these patients then take these risky procedures."
Dr. Alam is working to make these procedures more accesible for patients like Charla Nash and Carmen Tarleton, but he admits that we have a long way to go.
"The goal one day would be that no matter where you are if you had this injury if it becomes a standard of care that you would be able to get that care. We are not there yet, we are still in this sorta experimental phase," adds Dr. Alam.
For more information about facial transplant and reconstructive surgeries check the website for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at facemd.org.