(Updated) Woman receives face transplant at Brigham and Women’s

In a video on her blog, Carmen Blandin Tarleton talks about the lye attack that disfigured her in 2007.  (Video screen shot)
In a video on her blog, Carmen Blandin Tarleton talks about the lye attack that disfigured her in 2007. (Video screen shot)

A Vermont woman disfigured in a violent attack by her estranged husband nearly six years ago said her “spirits are high” and that she feels “really good and happy” after receiving a face transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital this month.

In June 2007, Carmen Blandin Tarleton was beaten and doused with industrial-strength lye by her estranged husband. She spent more than three months in a medically-induced coma, lost almost all her sight, and suffered burns over 80 percent of her body. She underwent dozens of surgeries over the years and is now recovering from her transplant.

The 44-year-old Tarleton, who was a registered nurse and worked on transplant floors of hospitals in California and New Hampshire, was on the waiting list for more than a year, and is the fifth patient to receive a face transplant at Brigham and Women’s.

She did not speak or appear during a news conference at the hospital, but her sister did read a statement on her behalf.

“I feel great appreciation and gratitude for the tremendous gift I have been given,” she said in her statement. “My spirits are high. I feel really good and happy.”

Tarleton also spoke about her doctors and the woman who was the organ donor and gave her a new face.

“What a great gift they’ve given to me,” she said.

The woman who was the organ donor and her family wish to remain anonymous, hospital officials said. However, Richard Luskin, the head of the New England Organ Bank, read a statement on the family’s behalf.

“We believe her spirit will live on through the connections she made in life as well as through the four people she never met,” the family said, referring to the people who were helped through her organ donation.

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac led the transplant team of about 40 people during the nearly 15-hour procedure. He said Tarleton will not look much like her donor and she will not look much like her old self either.

Doctors did not have much hope for Tarleton when she first arrived at Brigham and Women’s by medical helicopter.

“She was unrecognizable to anyone who knew her,” Pomahac said. “Her injuries were among the worst I’ve seen in my career.”

Tarleton’s attacker, Herb Rodgers, is serving a minimum of 30 years in prison.

Tarleton chronicled about her experiences in a book that came out just last week, “Overcome: Burned, Blinded, and Blessed.” She also has a blog, in which she discusses of the need to forgive Rodgers.

“I wanted to try and forgive, in order to be completely free from his actions,” Tarleton writes. “I had to believe that it was possible for me to reach and hold onto that goal. I listened to my heart tell me that this event had nothing to do with any of my own wrong-doing and that no one deserves this kind of treatment.

“I believed it. It was an opportunity to propel me to a better place… I would not want to change the past now, for I have already won.”

Follow Metro Boston on Twitter @MetroBos and Michael Naughton @metrobosmike.


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