Woman's 2nd face transplant delayed by COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed a needed face transplant for a New Hampshire woman.


The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed a needed face transplant for a New Hampshire woman.

Carmen Tarleton hopes to become the first person in the U.S. to receive a second full face transplant. She was attacked 13 years ago by her ex-husband, who beat her with a bat before dousing her with lye.

She forgave him and, seven years later, received a new face. But it's now dying.

"I lost my eyelids," Tarleton said. "I don't have eyelids."

She has been on the transplant list since October, but the coronavirus pandemic took her off. She's now back on the active list and optimistic.

"It's all going to end with my surgery," she said. "All this going on, all the pain will go away."

Tarleton said she wants people to see her, to see the sores from the contracting skin, the skin that's dying, the lips that won't move. She knows it's graphic.

"When organs fail, your heart or your kidney fails, people know that. You tell them, but you don't see it," she said. "You've got to see it. It's hard to look at sometimes, and it's painful."

Tarleton was a sought-after inspirational speaker. Her talks now take place on Zoom. She focuses on topics such as forgiveness and overcoming difficulties.

She lives alone, and, until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, solitude is critical.

"Because my immune system is low, because I'm a transplant patient, I will probably be isolated for another year until there is a vaccine," she said.

Her condition is not fatal. Tarleton said doctors could patch her together with skin grafts.

"What a face transplant gives me is an incredible lot of quality of life, compared to not having one," she said. "You've got to be tough, and I'm tough, so I'll be patient."