My new face, my new life

June 10, 2012, Sunday/ 11:41:00

When he walks down the corridors of the hospital, everyone greets him. You might think he is a pop star, based on all the attention he is getting.

But the man is Turkey’s first face transplant patient, Uğur Acar. He is only 20 years old but he currently has the face of 35-year-old Ahmet Kaya.

Acar is celebrating his first birthday with a new face. He first heads to the barber’s for a shave. He then puts on a suit, the first he has even owned in his life. Members of the press and doctors wait excitedly for Acar at the Akdeniz restaurant on the Akdeniz University Hospital campus. On the cake they’ve prepared for him are the words “Many happy more years in your new life.” Acar is very happy to celebrate with his doctors and his colleagues. He says, “The best gift I could have received is my new face.”

The wounds Acar has carried around with him for so long appear to have opened up new doors in his life. He is now working at the Rector’s Office of the very same university where he first came as a patient. Several university students are currently working on a documentary about his operation. Previously, no one outside of his close relatives would celebrate his birthday with him. This time, when he awoke on the morning of June 5, he had about 1,000 birthday greetings on his Facebook page. He now strolls around the gardens of the hospital in his new suit, like one of his favorite actors from the “Valley of the Wolves” TV series.

With Uğur Acar, Turkey was propelled into a new era of organ transplants. Acar’s new life is largely thanks to the Akdeniz University Hospital doctors -- in particular Professor Ömer Özkan. In fact, the Akdeniz, Gazi and Hacettepe universities are all currently competing with one another for new transplant cases. The most recent one, that of 34-year-old Turan Çolak, had more positive and swifter results than previous such transplants, highlighting the new stage that Turkey has arrived at in this particular arena.

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