Arkansas Man Is Given Hope With A Whole Eye Transplant


In an extraordinary medical feat spanning 21 hours, a collaborative effort involving 140 surgeons and attendants successfully executed the groundbreaking procedure of a complete eyeball transplant on a military veteran, Aaron James. James, a victim of a near-fatal electrocution while working on a powerline in Mississippi, suffered a 7,200-volt shock in June 2021. The incident resulted in the need to replace a significant portion of his face.

This intricate surgery involved not only the transplantation of a donor eyeball but also the delicate task of connecting it to the optic nerves. Despite the complexity of the operation, the team of medical professionals declared it a success. However, the outcome regarding James’ potential recovery of vision remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the procedure marks a momentous stride forward in transplantation science, offering a glimmer of hope and providing immense relief to James’ family.

The patient, Aaron James, recounted waking up in a Dallas hospital burn ward, having no memory of the incident except for getting ready for work. Despite the severity of his injuries, he expressed a sense of assurance about his recovery. Remarkably, when he took a selfie, he discovered the extent of his facial injuries, realizing he was missing a significant portion of his face.

Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the director of the Face Transplant Program at NYU Langone Health, played a pivotal role in the decision-making process. Upon learning that James faced the prospect of losing his left eye, Dr. Rodriguez directed the surgical team to preserve as much of the optic nerve as possible, paving the way for a potential transplant.

While Dr. Rodriguez cautioned that the patient might never regain vision in the transplanted eyeball, the success of this intricate and unprecedented surgery represents a beacon of hope for the advancement of medical science and the potential for transformative interventions in the realm of facial and ocular reconstruction.

“But I said ‘even if it don’t work, I’ll have an eye, and it will be at least normal-looking, and then you all could learn something off of this,’” Aaron said when speaking with CNN. “You have to have a patient zero,” he said jokingly.

Following the successful acquisition of donor tissue, James underwent a comprehensive treatment at NYU Langone Health, involving two distinct procedures. The initial phase focused on an eye transplant, during which stem cells were precisely injected into the optic nerve and its surrounding area. The objective was to facilitate a gradual restoration of communication between James’ brain and the transplanted eye.

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As time elapsed, the transplanted donor tissue exhibited a remarkable assimilation and healing process. Miraculously, a distinctly human countenance emerged in the reflection staring back at James. Notably, the growth of beard stubble through the rejuvenated skin became a visible manifestation of the transformative journey. Meagan, Aaron’s devoted wife of two decades, described the experience as a complex and profound mix of emotions—a sentiment encapsulating the profound impact and significance of this medical marvel.

“It was a crazy, great, weird, strange, ecstatic, happy feeling,” Meagan shared. “I was just happy he made it through, and everything was good in the moment.”