In what doctors are calling a Canadian first, surgeons from Montreal's Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital have successfully completed a face transplant.
The 30-hour operation on a 64-year-old man who was badly disfigured in a hunting accident took place this past May.
A team led by plastic surgeon Dr. Daniel Borsuk performed the feat on Maurice Desjardins and said he is the world's oldest recipient of a face transplant.
"This delicate operation is the result of years of concerted, meticulous work by an incredible team and the incredible bravery and co-operation of the patient and his family," Borsuk, who also teaches at Universite de Montreal, said Wednesday.
The operation required the expertise of multiple specialists and the collaboration of more than 100 professionals, including doctors, nurses and many other personnel.
The transplant was made possible by a donor and the permission of the donor's family.
Health officials told a news conference the recipient is doing well some four months after the surgery.
He is able to breathe without a tracheotomy, chew with his new jaws and also smell and speak properly.
"Already, he's leading more of a normal life," said Borsuk. "He comes through to visit me every week and in the waiting room, nobody looks at him. They used to always stare at him, (but now) he's just another face in the crowd."
Desjardins had been living in constant pain and isolation since the 2011 accident despite five reconstructive surgeries.
Doctors noted the transplant offered him the only option to have his two jaws, facial muscles, teeth, lips and nose restored. He underwent years of psychological evaluation to make sure he was a good candidate for the procedure.
"Before I even accept to do this type of surgery, I have to know the patient has the mental fortitude, understood all the risks and all the benefits and all the complications that can happen," he said. "We have to evaluate, if he's going to be the first in the country, he has to be the perfect patient."
Borsuk noted that contrary to how science fiction and films like the Nicolas Cage and John Travolta vehicle 'Face/Off' depict the surgery, the operation does not leave the recipient looking like the donor.
"Your personality comes through your face. Our personalities come through the way you act, the way you animate, the way everything you do and experience and express comes through your life," he said. "Your identity will remain the same, it will just come through different features."