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Transfiguration

The current New Yorker has a long cover feature charting the journey of a face transplant, written so expertly by Raffi Khatchadourian. Dallas Wiens, a young man who was trying to earn money to re-enlist back into the army, took on a job with his uncle and brother. Dallas went up into a crane, but ending up being struck by an overhead live wire. He lost his face. He nearly lost his life. I don't like how Khatchadourian opens the piece, though: 'God took Dallas Wiens's face from him on a clear November morning four years ago.' But then, the New Yorker is still American - and Dallas himself believes in a god. It sounds harsher - that this thing that Dallas now believes in more than ever caused a rebirth of a man through the loss of his face. His journey is a moving one; not just the journey from face/off to transplant - although I found myself so queasy by it at one point I had to stop reading and skip some of the fine details - but his life. He was lost - from a hard part of Texas - and found himself from job to army to job again, hoping to return to the army. But, what got me was that, towards the end of the feature, he says 'I had no childhood'. One cannot imagine such horrific trauma. Not just waking from a coma to be told you have face, but the fight to get a face transplant. But, one of the biggest battles is financial. He's now blind. Fortunately, the hospital ensured that insurance covered the immunosuppressants that Dallas will need to take for the rest of his life, if his body is not to reject the tissue of another. But they bring their own potential risks.

The more I read about America - the fact that medical costs are the biggest cause of bankruptcy leaving many without any cover at all; the relentless brutality of the Republican opinion that declares public healthcare to be synonymous with the devil they also believe in, and which doesn't seem to differ too much from their god either; the scant annual holiday provision; the non-existent maternity legislation - it's all very misanthropic - leaving people like Dallas Wiens believing that losing his face was somehow a test from god because he'd previously been on the wrong path, ergo, it's your own fault. Dallas, though, has a young daughter that he can love, and he is learning Japanese and Braille and he plays computer games for the blind. He also wants to write fantasy novels. It's a long, challenging read, which also includes bits of the stories of two other face transplantees - but it really made me think about how fragile we are, humans. And how fortunate many of us are to get to a decent age with most things intact.



Location:Kew

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