After a nearly six-year long journey a Thetford Vermont woman is finally getting a new lease on life.
Carmen Tarleton 44 is recovering from a rare and complicated full face transplant surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The surgery happened sometime in February but the date is not being released to protect the identity of the donor.
On Wednesday the hospital announced the surgery.
"I'm happy to report that the team has achieved tremendous success in providing Carmen with a full face transplant" Dr. Elof Eriksson Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Doctors say the surgery involved up to 40 people and took 15 hours. Tarleton had been on the transplant waiting list for 14 months.
"We had a plan...a plan that had been developed over months of research. Everyone executed their plan perfectly" says Eriksson.
The mother of two had been left badly disfigured with burns over 80-percent of her body after her estranged husband doused her with industrial-strength lye. Since then she has endured more than 50 surgeries.
Doctors transplanted the facial skin including the neck nose lips facial muscles arteries and nerves. They say Carmen is almost in the final stage of recovery.
"Carmen is recovering very well. She's in great spirits. She's working hard to get stronger" says Dr. Bohdan Pomahac Brigham and Women's Hospital. "She is without a doubt one of the most inspirational people I have ever met."
She'll need a year to heal and doctors expect she will regain about 80-percent of her facial functions.
Staff at the hospital say Tarleton who is still recovering watched online the press conference announcing the transplant. With the wait and surgery over Tarleton wrote on her blog she can already freely move her head.
"I cried with such a deep appreciation for the persons truly responsible for giving me this gift: this new physical freedom" wrote Tarleton.
While Tarleton is expected to return to Vermont soon her family has asked for privacy.
Her ex-husband Herbert Rodgers is serving 30 to 70 years behind bars. On February 11 2009 he had pleaded guilty.
In May of 2009 Tarleton regained some of her sight following a surgery in Boston.
More than two years later she was added to the face transplant list.
Carmen's story is now captured in a recently released book "Overcome: Burned Blinded and Blessed."
She also released a statement Wednesday:
"I feel great appreciation and gratitude for the tremendous gift that I've been given. This greatly improves my quality of life and physical comfort level. My spirits are high I feel really good and happy. This is a momentous opportunity in my life and I want to convey to the donor's family what a great gift they've given to me. And though there's much more to go I feel strong and I am confident that I have the strength to deal with whatever comes my way. I want all who have supported me to know that I will do everything in my power to ensure a successful outcome.
I want to thank every member of my care team at the Brigham for the superb care I have been given. Their focus and attention and how personally caring all of staff here is including the public relations staff is remarkable.
I have been so touched and am so grateful for all that the community both locally and globally has done for me. Your words of encouragement and gestures of support have meant so much.
I want to acknowledge my family for their support and love and the support of my good friend Sheldon. My sister and my mother have been especially dedicated to my well-being. My daughters Hannah and Liza believe in me fully and have been my inspiration. We're all excited to move into this new chapter of our lives together."