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Polish Man Gets Lifesaving Face Transplant

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Patients usually have to wait several years before undergoing face transplant surgery, but after a work accident left a 33-year-old Polish man mauled and at risk for life-threatening infections, doctors needed to act fast.

The man, identified only as Grzegorz, got a new face three weeks after a stone-cutting machine damaged his face so severely that it couldn't be reattached. His jaw was crushed, and his condition was deteriorating so rapidly that doctors said they had no choice other than to give him a face transplant right away.

"Usually, the recipients have to wait between one and seven years," said Dr. Adam Maciejewski, who headed the team of surgeons at the Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology in Gliwice, which is the only facility in Poland licensed to perform face transplants. "For obvious reasons, we had to act much faster, as we were saving this man's life."

Earlier this month, Carmen Blandin Tarleton spoke publicly for the first time since her February face transplant. It came six years after her estranged husband attacked her with lye, blinding her and leaving her disfigured.

Charla Nash, a Connecticut woman who was mauled by a Chimpanzee in 2009, got her face transplant surgery in 2011.

Maciejewski said Grzegorz's surgery was the first transplant undertaken to save a patient's life.

The May 15 operation took 27 hours and also included a bone transplant. Grzegorz needed reconstruction of his face, jaws, palate and the bottom of his eye sockets.

He is still at risk for infection but is expected to recover and live a normal life.

Although post-operation photographs show stitches from above his right eye, under his left eye and around the face to the neck, Grzegorz was able to give photographers a thumbs up six days after surgery.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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