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China: Around The Nation

Chinese doctors rebuild woman’s face lost to disease as a toddler ... on her chest

Jin Qi has lived without a nose and upper lip since she was one year old. Now groundbreaking technology and surgical techniques offer hope of a new life

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 11:09am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 11:09am

Jin Qi is on the path to recovering her nose and mouth, after losing them when she was just one year old.

The 27-year-old underwent the first of four facial reconstruction surgeries on Monday at Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital, in a treatment where tissue for her nose and upper lip will be cultivated on her chest, mainland media reported.

Surgeons also used 3D printing technology to fashion implants to help reconstruct her face.

Jin’s first surgery lasted more than 10 hours, and involved initial reshaping of her missing facial features, Xinhua reported. The full course of treatment will take at least six months.

Jin lost her nose and upper lip when she was one from a high fever and life-threatening sepsis caused her own autoimmune system to attack her tissues and organs, Xinhua said. Her family had no access to adequate medical resources in the remote village where she was born, in the northwest of Hubei province.

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Despite living almost her whole life to date with missing facial organs, Jin graduated from college and moved to Shenzhen where she could explore her love for design and photography, the Xinmin Evening News reported.

All the while she wanted to find medical treatment for her face, and posted her story online. Internet users banded together to fund some of her medical costs, and she was able to contact doctors at the Shanghai hospital.

There have been 42 successful facial transplants to date in China of the type that Jin is undergoing, which avoid the need for a donor. The breakthrough method won second place last year for China’s “National Science and Technology Progress Award”, according to news portal Thepaper.cn.

Jin’s doctors told reporters the facial reconstruction process was difficult, as they had to not only grow new tissue for her face, but make sure the new facial organs would not affect her ability to eat, speak, and breathe.

After 25 years, Jin is hopeful the operations will change her life.

“If this surgery is successful, I will be more confident in front of other people,” she said before entering the operating theatre.