Dr. Daniel Borsuk from Montreal never imagined a day when he would be performing one of the most significant medical procedures in Canada’s history. In an interview with La Presse, the remarkable 40-year-old doctor revealed how he ended up successfully carrying out Canada's very first facial transplant.
Borsuk originally planned on going into the field of finances or health administration. It wasn’t until he was involved in a fateful researched project that he discovered what his true passion was. The project was led by a physician who wanted to understand the problems that slowed down care to amputee patients.
"If you lose a finger or an arm in an accident, the time it takes to be treated is crucial," Borsuk noted in his interview. What he initially thought was a pretty disturbing topic, actually ended up fascinating him when he stood in to view an operation. "This is where for the first time I thought, that's what I want to do in life."
He spent a year learning in Baltimore where he mentored under Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez. Borsuk was a part of the legendary team in 2012 who assisted Rodriguez in the largest facial transplant ever performed.
The transplant required 36-hours of surgery on a then 39-year-old, Richard Lee Norris. Without a guide, Rodriguez and his team had to form the tongue, jaw, teeth and facial skin of the victim who had his face blown off accidentally by a shotgun.
It was earlier this year that Borsuk had the opportunity to perform his own miraculous surgery on 64-year-old Maurice Desjardins, the oldest patient to ever undergo facial transplant surgery. While such transplants have been performed 40 times worldwide since 2005, this would be the very first time in Canada.
First Canadian face transplant: Maurice Desjardins had been living in constant pain and isolation since 2011. https://t.co/Z3a271LS7B— Global Montreal (@Global_Montreal) September 12, 2018
Desjardins was badly disfigured in a hunting accident back in 2011. He lost both his jaws, nose, and teeth. After years of suffering, he sought out Borsuk with a few requests.
He wanted to be able to breathe properly and speak properly. He also wanted to have his face reconstructed so that he could go outside with his granddaughter and not have people stare.
Why did Borsuk decide to take on such a massive operation? He says there was no other option. “Imagine when you’re suffering in silence at home for years and you don’t leave your house as much as you’d like to, and you’re sleeping in a separate room because of the sound of the tracheostomy (opening in the trachea),” he said. "You’re living this very difficult existence."
Borsuk spent years planning and training for the surgery in the cadaver lab of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital. Desjardins also went through an extensive screening process of medical and psychological testing before the transplant could be finalized. Back in May after finding the perfect donor, it was finally time.
Hospital officials detailed the complex and risky 30-hour procedure involving Maurice Desjardins, who at 64 was described as the world’s oldest recipient of a face transplant https://t.co/mnl2MYGah4 pic.twitter.com/yaSTopTsUX— 680 NEWS Toronto (@680NEWS) September 12, 2018
The totality of the operation included Borsuk, nine other surgeons as well as more than 100 other professionals including doctors and nurses. Desjardins was operated on for 30 meticulous hours and spent a week in intensive care.
As we know now, five months after the surgery, Maurice Desjardins is doing well. His rehabilitation and recovery will take a year or more as he relearns how to eat, drink and make facial expressions.
Maurice Desjardins w wypadku na polowaniu stracił całą szczękę, usta, nos i zęby. Od roku 2011 oddychał jedynie przy pomocy specjalnej tuby podłączonej do szyi. https://t.co/M3D5vct8UQ— WprostZdrowie (@WprostZdrowie) September 14, 2018
Borsuk has gone on record saying he believes he and his team have accomplished one of the best face transplants to date. “You can make a face, but it has to be beautiful,” he said all in thanks to social media. “It used to be in the time of our grandparents, that your name meant something. Now people want to see your face.”
For more on Dr. Daniel Borsuk, check out his official website.