Second American face transplant recipient talks to reporters. - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Second American face transplant recipient talks to reporters.

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(NBC-KTIV) - A man whose face was nearly destroyed in a horrible accident four years ago has a new one.

He's the nation's second face transplant patient, and James Maki went public to tell his amazing story.

"My first thought was, my nose looks exactly the same as my old nose," said Maki on Thursday.

His old nose, upper lip, eyelid, cheeks, the roof of his mouth and most of his facial skin plus the muscle, bone and nerves underneath were all destroyed when Maki fell onto the electrified third rail of Boston's subway.

"He was brought to Brigham emergency department so horribly disfigured that I cannot share with you the pictures," says lead surgeon Dr. Bohdan Pomahac.

But sketches tell the story. He barely had any face left.

A 17-hour surgery saved his life.

But for the last four years, Maki was reluctant to leave home because of the stares and ridicule he endured from strangers.

"I just appreciate that I have a chance to start a new life," he now says.

His his life began when Joseph Helfgot's ended last month.

It's his face that doctors used to create a new one for Maki.

Today, Helfgot's widow called it a miracle.

"You can never come up with a good reason when someone's been taken too soon. But if someone else can live it sure goes a long way to taking the sting out of it," says Susan Whitman Helfgot.

He still has a long way to go.

Doctors are watching for signs of infection or rejection.

Nerves are still growing, there's swelling, and it'll be a while before Maki can talk, eat and even smile normally.

But doctors say he's headed home in a few days.

The surgery cost $200,000 but the hospital and doctors all donated their time.
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