BOSTON -- The nation's first full face transplant recipient said the first thing his young daughter told him when she saw him after the operation was "Daddy, you're so handsome."
Dallas Wiens, sporting a goatee and dark sunglasses, joined surgeons yesterday at Brigham and Women's Hospital in his first public appearance since the 15-hour procedure in March.
"It feels natural," said the 25-year-old Texan, who received a new nose, lips, skin, muscle and nerves from an anonymous donor. The operation was paid for by the U.S. military, which hopes to learn from the procedure to help soldiers with severe wounds.
Wiens' features were all but burned away and he was left blind after hitting a power line while painting a church in November 2008.
He appeared before a packed room of reporters and photographers with a new, somewhat swollen face and a new head of hair.
"I adapted to it very quickly," he told reporters. "As time went on . . . I was able to smell again and breathe through my nose. Every step of the way was amazing."
The first thing Wiens' nose was able to detect after months of having no smell? Hospital lasagna. "You wouldn't imagine it, but it smelled delicious," Wiens said.
Surgeons said the transplant was not able to restore his sight, and some nerves were so badly damaged from his injury that he will probably have only partial sensation on his left cheek and the left side of his forehead.
Plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahac, who performed the operation on Wiens, said the transplant's results were better than he expected.
"The most fun part is to see the next six to nine months when the function will start to come back and when Dallas will start to feel a light touch on his face," Pomahac said.
Wiens spoke poignantly last fall about how he wanted to smile again and feel kisses from his 4-year-old daughter, Scarlette.
About a dozen face transplants have been done worldwide, in the United States, France, Spain and China.