“Wiens began to speak. ‘Because of the medication that they gave me, I don’t know if I can do this without making a mess.’ His speech was slow, and he halted every few words. ‘Every one of you—I guess I can’t,’ he said, and then paused, collected himself, and began again. ‘I will never, in my life, be able to express the undying gratitude, and love, for you guys to usher me into an entire new life, and “Thank you” just doesn’t count.’ Wiens paused again, and the sound of medical equipment, a mass of noises forming a single hiss, filled the silence. ‘It’s my life—’ His voice began to waver. His head, scarred and featureless, except for the cartoon of a face that had been drawn on it, seemed terrifically vulnerable. The doctors were going to remove the inexpressive container of flesh that Janis had created to house Wien’s personhood; and yet the room was filled with his emotion, his trust, his gratitude, his anxiety. He was barely audible. His head was still. He whispered, ‘I will see you all on the other side, right?’”
I was terrifically moved by this article in the New Yorker about Dallas Wiens, a Texan man who lost all of his face—literally, nothing was left except for his skull—in an electrical accident. After surviving with only a layer of skin to cover his featureless head for 2 and a 1/2 years, he was given a full face transplant by a team of doctors. Smell, taste, feeling, sensation, and even hair were granted to him anew, from the body of an unanimous donor. Today, the only sense he is still missing is sight. It’s an incredibly moving story, and an incredibly philosophically challenging one. The article is long, but worth plowing through.
I read it alone last night, in an empty painting studio, underneath a band practicing strings of guitar melodies that shook the ceiling above my head. While they stomped their feet to keep time, I lost myself in it. I think you might too.