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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 13:31 GMT
'I would consider a face transplant'
Christine has had to wear a facial prosthesis for 25 years
The Royal College of Surgeons has urged doctors not to carry out face transplants.

Christine Piff tells the BBC why she would consider having the operation.

"I had cancer of the sinus when I was 36. I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but they weren't effective.

"So I had to have surgery to remove half my palette, which held my upper teeth and the maxilla bone and my eye.

"At the time I was going through it, I didn't really understand about facial disfigurement.

"The battle for me was to beat the cancer, because I had three young children."

If I thought that I could be made whole, with all these complications taken away from me that I have to face every day, then I would go for it
But she said when she returned home she felt completely isolated.

"I couldn't understand these feelings. It felt completely alien.

"I've since learnt that this is a natural process of bereavement. You have to go through this stage when you've lost your face."

A different face

Christine, from Yateley in Hampshire, had to have more surgery when she developed a tumour behind her eye. Both her eye, and the tissue surrounding it had to be removed.

She was fitted with a facial prosthesis two years later. It allows her to speak and to eat, and to function normally.

"That was a very tough stage. Again, it was a different face - and it wasn't me.

"Prostheses are absolutely brilliant. but they can't reconstruct what you had."

She added: "It takes a hell of a lot of adjustment. And I use that word hell, because it's what it was like.

"If I saw people staring at me, it took every bit of courage would be diminished and I'd feel really awful.

"No one can understand those feelings unless they've been there."

Logic

Seven years after her surgery, Christine set up the charity Let's Face It, to offer support to others with facial disfigurement.

She backs the idea of face transplants, though she says she has concerns.

If this surgery is going to be able to give them their quality of life back, that's pretty wonderful
"There's a hesitation from my part, thinking that I would be wearing another face that didn't belong to me.

"But when I look at it logically, it is 2002, this is going to happen."

She admitted that there were physiological considerations.

"But here I am, with this hole in my head, and if I thought that I could be made whole, with all these complications taken away from me that I have to face every day, then I would go for it."

And she said there were many others would consider the operation.

"I'm very worried, and there's a part of me that's very frightened because I can't imagine what it's going to be like, or what they can do.

"But people, such as those who have lost their lower jaw and can't eat or speak properly, and they're fed through a peg in their stomach.

"If this surgery is going to be able to give them their quality of life back, that's pretty wonderful."

To contact Let's Face It, call 01252 879630.


SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Face transplants
19 Nov 03  |  Health
Surgeons oppose face transplants
19 Nov 03  |  Health
'I don't want a face transplant'
19 Nov 03  |  Health


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