Facing a New Face: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Experiences of a Blind Face Transplant Patient and His Partner

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Abstract

Increasing evidence points to good functional, aesthetic, and psychosocial outcomes after face transplantation. However, research investigating how patients and their families subjectively experience the transplantation process is lacking thus far. This study aims to investigate the personal experiences of a blind face transplant patient and his partner. In-depth interviews exploring different experiences were conducted with both partners separately 20 months after face transplantation. The interviews were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Seven themes were identified in both interviews: coping with the facial trauma, motivation for the face transplantation, outcomes of the face transplantation, acceptance of the new face, gratitude toward the donor family, relation to the medical team, and dealing with the media. Two further themes were only mentioned by the patient (coping with complications and coping with blindness) and one theme only by the partner (loss of choices). The results of this study increase our understanding of the transplantation process as experienced by a face transplant recipient and his partner. They may help to better inform professionals to optimize transplantation procedures or supportive interventions.

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