A 22-year-old man who suffered a horrible car accident became the first person in the world to receive a successful joint transplant of the face and both hands, announced the medical team of the New York University hospital.

Joe DiMeo, of New Jersey, suffered burns to 80% of his body in July 2018, after falling asleep while driving to his house after working at night. His car flipped over and then exploded.

The surgery took place on August 12, 2020 and lasted about 23 hours.

It involved a team of 96 people led by surgeon Eduardo Rodríguez, director of the NYU Langone face transplant program.

"All of us are of the unanimous opinion that Joe is the perfect patient," Rodriguez said. "He is the most motivated patient I have ever met."

This was the fourth face transplant performed by Rodríguez, and the first of hands conducted under his direction.
A reactive antibody test indicated that DiMeo would reject 94% of donors, so finding a match required a nationwide search equivalent to "finding a needle in a haystack," Rodriguez said.

The compatible donor was finally found in Delaware, through the Gift of Life donor program.

DiMeo received a transplant of both hands to the middle of his forearm, including the radius and ulna bones, three dominant nerves, six blood veins that required vascular connections, and 21 tendons.

He also had a full face transplant, including the forehead, eyebrows, both ears, nose, eyelids, lips and skull bones, cheekbones, nose and chin.

After the operation, DiMeo assures that he now has "a second chance at life" and sent a message of hope.

"There is always light at the end of the tunnel, never give up," the patient said Wednesday at a news conference organized by NYU Langone Health, which carried out this pioneering operation.

"I can't wait to get back to work," he said.

Without a doubt a shocking story but with a happy ending.