News & Current Affairs

December 24, 2008

Canada woman survives snow burial

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Canada woman survives snow burial

A person in Friday's snowstorm in Toronto 19/12/2008

Ms Molnar’s car became stuck in Friday’s snowstorm near Toronto

A Canadian woman who went missing during a blizzard last week has been found alive, buried in 23in (58cm) of snow, police say.

Rescuers were shocked to find Donna Molnar, of Ancaster, west of Toronto, still conscious after she spent three days outside in freezing temperatures.

Ms Molnar, 55, vanished on Friday after her car became stuck in a snowy field, and is now being treated in hospital.

Police dog Ace and his handler Ray Lau have been credited with the find.

“When I came up to her she was covered in snow, just her face and her neckline were exposed,” rescuer Ray Lau said. “I was surprised she was alive.”

Mr Lau found Ms Molnar on Monday, just a few hundred yards away from her four wheel drive car, wearing little more than a winter jacket and suffering from hypothermia.

Police credited the insulating effect of the snow with keeping her alive.

Staff Sgt Mark Cox said she was suffering from frostbite and could lose some of her extremities, although she was expected to survive.

“That’s the miracle. That’s a Christmas miracle. Sometimes the good don’t die young,” said Mark Mackesy, a family friend who spent the weekend comforting Ms Molnar’s husband and son.

“Donna Molnar is an exceptional person,” he added.

Canada and much of the US have been hit by extreme winter weather in recent days, with vast amounts of snow falling from coast to coast.

Transport has been disrupted and thousands of homes have been left without power.

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August 23, 2008

Face transplant ‘double success’

Face transplant ‘double success’

The Lancet

This man had been attacked by a bear

Successful results from two more face transplants will speed progress towards similar operations in other countries, say experts.

The Lancet journal reported operations involving a bear attack victim in China, and a French patient with a massive facial tumour had taken place.

The Chinese patient was given not just the lip, nose, skin and muscle from a donor, but even some facial bone.

Specialists in London are working towards the UK’s first transplant.

Frenchwoman Isabel Dinoire became the world’s first face transplant patient in 2005 after being savaged by a pet dog. She described the results of the operation as a “miracle”.

The latest operations were just as complex, but involved different challenges for French and Chinese surgeons.

Face transplantation has moved from ethical debate to surgical reality
French transplantation team

The first operation took place in April 2006. The patient was a farmer from a remote village in Yunnan province in China, who had been attacked by a bear 18 months earlier, leaving a huge section of tissue missing from the right side of his face.

The operation, at Xijing Hospital in Xi’an City, used the face of a 25-year-old man who had died in a traffic accident.

Despite immune-suppressing treatment, the patient had to battle his body’s attempt to reject the new tissue on three occasions.

His doctors said they now believed that face transplantation was a viable long-term option.

The second operation, carried out in Paris in January 2007, involved a 29-year-old man disfigured by a neurofibroma, a massive tumour growing on his facial nerves.

Its removal was timed to coincide with a face transplant, and a year later, doctors again declared the operation a success.

The patient told them that previously he had been considered a “monster”, but now felt like an anonymous person in the crowd.

The procedure, they said, had moved “from ethical debate to surgical reality”.

Moving forward

In the UK, surgeons at the Royal Free Hospital in London are making preparations to carry out the operation if the right combination of patient and donor becomes available.

Professor Iain Hutchison, a consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Barts and the London Hospital, and founder of the “Saving Faces” charity, said that the twin successes would offer more encouragement for surgical teams considering carrying out their own operations.

He said: “This takes a step forward in two ways – firstly the use of bone as well as skin – and next is carrying out this operation on someone with a benign tumour.

“There will always be limitations to this – the main one would be a societal constraint – a lack of suitable donors.

“However, there is certainly demand for this, with the major area being for people with facial burns.”

Roger Green, president of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, said: “This particular surgery is a way of giving back a life to a patient who has been horribly scarred by burns, trauma or a tumour.

“However, we must acknowledge the long-term medical risks, such as transplant rejection and the need for life-long medication, associated with the procedure. There is also the potential of psychological impact following such a transplant.”

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