“Hi, I’m Jim
I say, and this is the dead honest truth, I’m glad I had that accident, because of that accident they started detoxing me. It put an end to a destructive path my life has been on since coming back from Vietnam a heroin addict. For the last 16 years, I’d been either living on the streets or in and out of halfway homes.
In June of 2005 I blacked out at the Ruggles Subway Station in Boston, Ma and fell onto the tracks and the electrified third rail.
I can’t recall anything about that day except that I just wanted to get really high. I had received my prescribed dose of methadone from the clinic at the V.A. that morning, which I got everyday for probably 30 years. I then got Klonopin on the street and took 60 of those. People who do heroin are always searching for that first high, that feeling you get from that first high by taking larger and larger doses of drugs, but it doesn’t work. On the night of the accident, I was rushed to the ER at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. They weren’t sure they could keep me alive, but they did. Almost a year and a half had passed before I was brought out of a medically induced coma after going through many operations. When I woke someone told me ‘You don’t have a nose.’ A bandage was covering me so I didn’t believe them. The third degree burns caused by the high voltage third rail had resulted in the loss of my nose, cheeks, teeth and the roof of my mouth. Also I had damaged one of my eyes and severely burned my arms and hands. The injuries were so bad that even with all the operations, I was still extremely disfigured.
It was lucky for me that a doctor named Pomahac was on call the night I was brought in. He took over my case and performed all the surgeries. A couple of years after the accident there was new hope for me. Dr Pomahac said I could be helped by a transplant. In 2009 he performed the surgery. I became the second person in the United States to have a partial face transplant.
When I saw my face 4 days after the 17 hr operation, I told Pomahac, ‘I can’t believe you made me look so close to what I used to look like’
I’m 62 now. I’m looking good for 62!”
Dr. Bohdan Pomahac was a junior plastic surgeon the night they brought Jim in and had never seen such severe facial injuries in his career. Ever since performing Jim’s operation and with the support of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he has led a team of doctors into the forefront of advances in transplant surgery and is now Director of Plastic Surgery Transplantation. Dr. Pomahac has gone on to perform the first full facial transplant in the U.S., a rare double hand transplant and other additional first of their kind transplant surgeries.