Ten years ago, to the day, Professor Lantieri’s team at the Georges-Pompidou hospital performed the first total face transplant. The patient, Jérôme Hamon, is 45 today. At the time, his face was melting like butter, he says, because of his neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that in 1% of cases causes facial features to sag. In June 2010, this inhabitant of Val-de-Marne therefore changed his face, for the first time. But after five years, the transplant deteriorated and he had to have another face transplant. It took ten years and three faces for Jérôme Hamon to finally be able to look at himself in the mirror.
He is a man who has known a lot of pain, who has spent months in hospital rooms, who has suffered mockery, insults, and who, when asked what he remembers from the past ten years, talks above all about happiness. “It’s only happiness because it has radically changed my life. Before the first transplant, every time I had to go out, there was this fear of meeting people on the sidewalk and being the object of remarks and stares. Now Jérôme Hamon walks with his head held high in the street. He tamed the gaze of others and he learned a lot, in ten years, about human nature, about its paradoxes: “Generosity, with organ donation, but also the darkest side of the human being with rejection, mockery.”
How does a three-faced man construct his identity? Are we quite the same when we change our appearance? Jérôme had ten years to find the answer.
His new appearance didn’t change him, it completed him. The pain that the 40-year-old suffered after his second transplant, a year in hospital, strengthened him mentally. After all these hardships, Jérôme Hamon is moving forward. He is now looking for a job as a bookseller: “Reading changed my life”, he said. Music also saved his life, especially that of Jean-Michel Jarre: “In the bedroom, when I was in the hospital, the music of Jean-Michel Jarre soothed me.” And ten years after his first transplant, surrounded by his books and records, Jérôme Hamon is a peaceful man.
The life of Jérôme Hamon, ten years after his face transplant: listen to the report by Boris Loumagne