By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TVBy Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) – A Vermont woman, who was the victim of a vicious act of domestic violence, now has a new lease on life.

On Wednesday, doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital announced that the woman recently underwent a full face transplant surgery. Her spirit is almost more impressive than the procedure itself.

“Fifteen minutes, you know 15 to 20 minutes changed the rest of your life, your whole direction – every aspect of who you are,” said Carmen Tarleton.

Those horrifying minutes happened to Tarleton, a Registered Nurse and a mother of two in Thetford, Vermont in June 2007.

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, Director of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston says, “Her injuries were among the worst I’ve seen in my career.”

She was beaten with a baseball bat, then over 80% of her body burned when her estranged husband doused her with the chemical lye. She was left legally blind, unrecognizable without a face, but as you can hear in an interview with the Boston Globe last fall, with a remarkable resolve left in tact.

Carmen says, “It was really hard to look in the mirror and not see the person you always saw.”

The last five years brought 50 surgeries at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the long wait for a donor for one of the most complex surgeries the hospital’s transplant team has overseen yet.

Dr. Elof Eriksson, Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital announced, “I’m happy to report that the team has achieved tremendous success in providing Miss Tarleton with a full face transplant.”

A fighter with grit and determination, Carmen was a transplant nurse herself who knew the risks of face transplant surgery and forged on with hope and happiness.

“It’s really changed my life,” she says, “but it hasn’t changed my life for the worse.”

Dr. Pomahac led the team at the Brigham. He says, “I’m fortunate to be part of Carmen’s team because she is without a doubt one of the most inspirational people I have ever met.”

How did she feel after the surgery? “She was very pleased and I think probably the very most immediate reactions was probably from the family when we brought her to the intensive care unit for the initial couple days – and certainly, I think she looks amazing but I’m biased.”

She is amazing in so many ways as she begins a new chapter without limits.

“I know I’m going to have a relationship someday, I know I’m going to fall in love someday whether I have a face or not,” Carmen says.

READ: Carmen Tarleton’s Blog


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