New hearts are quite common now. Around the world, 3,500+ people every year receive a new-to-them heart. Medically, the first successful heart transplant was done in 1967 in South Africa. Face transplants are far less common. The first full-face transplant was done in 2010 in Spain and since then, fewer than 45 have been undertaken around the world. Canada’s first full face transplant was performed in Montreal in the Spring of 2018 at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.
Most heart transplants are undertaken because the person would be at high risk of dying otherwise. Face transplants are also extremely serious but may not be life threatening. Having said that – by no means are they merely whimsical cosmetic alterations.
In 2011, Maurice Desjardins, an avid hunter, had his face terribly disfigured in a hunting accident. And it was far more serious than cosmetic. The accident damaged the nerves, muscles and bones in his face. After four reconstructive surgeries, Mr. Desjardins still suffered from chronic pain and struggled every day to form his words and to swallow his food. He had no nose, jaw or teeth and he breathed through a hole in his throat. (1)
It also changed his life. Rarely did he leave his home in Gatineau and when he did, he covered his face in public. He lost his roofing business. (2) He was desperate; in fact, when Dr. Daniel Borsuk met with Maurice and his wife Gaetane to discuss Canada’s first full face transplant, a part of the conversation went like this:
“Maurice, you could die on the table, or even right after the operation,” the doctor said. Desjardins replied: “Do you think I have a life now?” (2)
Desperate people find Borsuk. At 40, the Montreal native is a skilled surgeon known by his older mentors as a boy wonder. He’s a perfectionist, with zero tolerance for incompetence, but a leader who can bring people together and make magical things happen. Borsuk has always been drawn to the face — its beauty, its structure, “the whole window-to-the-soul thing.” The way it’s tied to our identity, our personality. (3)
When Desjardins learned that Dr. Borsuk was willing to attempt the first face transplant in Canada, and that he qualified as the perfect match, he said:
“For us, Dr. Borsuk is like a god, because he gave us a hope for a new life.” (4)
It took Dr. Borsuk five years of planning to prepare for the first face transplant. His team included, nine surgeons, five anaesthesiologists and more than 100 other medical, nursing, support and technical staff. But more was required. The willing recipient, Desjardins, had been waiting for months but a donor must be found.
Finally, the call came through one afternoon in the Spring of 2018. The process moved swiftly. It took 16 hours to prepare Desjardins face; 12 hours to remove the donor’s face and 18 hours to transplant the graft and then applause broke out in the surgical suite.
Later, Dr. Borsuk visited his patient with a mirror in his hand. Desjardins looked in the mirror. The doctor asked him what he thought. Desjardins, unable to speak yet, gave the doctor a thumbs-up, and the two men embraced.
Borsuk, reflecting on the moment Desjardins saw his new face in the mirror for the first time, described it this way:
“If you’ve ever seen a small child look in a mirror – it’s that. Touching his nose, touching his lips, and its almost … disbelief. When he finally looked in that mirror, it really … hit home. Everyone in the room, the security guards – we were all crying. It was very emotional.” (5)
Five Spiritual Reflections
1. Human Condition Goes Deeper than our Organs
New hearts and new faces may extend lives or greatly improve one’s quality of life; but they can’t change the reality of who we are. Our identity is not altered. Our physical and emotional well-being may become more robust. Our self-confidence may get a boost and we may return to normal living again. But, who and what we are go deeper than our physical organs. A new heart can only make us feel better and a new face can only make us look better.
When people say: “Follow your heart,” they don’t mean the blood-pumping organ. They mean your inner self – the core of your being. By the way, that’s a dubious piece of advice in the first place. Read on and understand why.
2. Critically Damaged but not by an Accident
Have you ever wondered why people from every part of the world, in every age, and regardless of religion or beliefs, struggle with the same brokenness? We all have inner propensities to think wrong and do wrong.
The Bible’s gives a clear account of what happened to the human family and why brokenness is intrinsic to the human heart. The ‘original’ was created perfect by God. Genesis 1:27 What happened was not an accident. It was one act of creature-defiance against the Creator. One act of outright rebellion against God. The deadly virus of sin has altered our spiritual DNA ever since. Romans 5:19, Romans 3:23, Genesis 3:1-24
Jesus spoke about the broken condition of every human heart:
For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:21-22
3. Life’s #1 Priority
Suffering people may be at the top of the priority list for a transplant, for which they are most thankful. Despite any risks involved, there’s nothing more important to them. If it doesn’t happen, they don’t see a future for themselves.
Not minimizing anyone’s overwhelming critical physical needs, but one’s spiritual need outranks all other human needs. The need for you to be right with God outstrips all other priorities. Why? Because one’s future and eternal destiny is at stake.
4. No Wait List – Immediately Available
Every person needs a ‘new heart’ – if you will allow that expression. In fact, the Bible talks about receiving a ‘new heart – a new spirit’. Ezekiel 36:26 And this ‘newness’ is available to you today.
- The ‘original’ was the way God created man and woman – perfect.
- Then, there is the way you are now – damaged by sin.
- But the point of this post is to tell you there’s hope – you can be changed! You can have newness. You can be saved and changed.
We’re not talking just about people with obvious brokenness and sin. This is just as critical to ultra-fine citizens whose inner brokenness is successfully masked. Yes, people saturated with religion and deeply sincere, also need this new heart – new spirit – new birth.
The Bible tells the story of Nicodemus – a senior official in his religion and sincere to a fault. The shock and biggest awakening in his long life must have been when Jesus looked at him, and very directly said:
“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God…You must be born again.” John 3:3,7
5. The One Worthy of Praise
The Desjardins knew exactly who the hero was. “For us, Dr. Borsuk is like a god, because he gave us a hope for a new life.” When you read the details of the story and all that went on behind-the-scenes for years, as Dr. Borsuk prepared himself, you will agree – Dr. Borsuk is the one worthy to be praised.
When you read the amazing details of the Bible, you will bow your heart in praise to Jesus Christ alone. He did it all. Because of His one sacrifice for sins on the Cross, you can have a new life – a new heart – a new spirit and a new future. Yes, a new destiny too – Heaven.
Take a minute now and read the verses below from the Word of God – the Holy Bible.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whoever believes in Him [Jesus] should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Romans 5:6 NLT
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst. 1Timothy 1:15 NIV
If you have read this story and you would like to be made new from the inside out – we point you to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the answer. Only He can meet your deepest need and fill the void inside. To email for help click here.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2Corinthians 5:17
Sources – References and Images