POSTED: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 8:00pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 8:04pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Ten months after becoming the first person to receive a full face transplant in the United States, a Fort Worth man marvels at his new-found ability to smile.
Dallas Wiens' face was burned off in 2008 when his head touched a high-voltage power line while he was standing in an elevated cherry picker.
In March 2010 Wiens became the only patient of the first three surgeries done in the U.S. who did not suffer an acute rejection of the transplant within the first six months.
"It's hard to believe it's almost been a year. It doesn't feel that long ago," Wiens said.
The 26-year-old father has slowly regained feeling in his face since the surgery.
"The most sensation I have gained so far is right around the right eyebrow, which is really very tender sensation. And actually I've regained full sensation in my bottom lip and quite a bit more in my upper lip," he said.
More recently, Wiens reached another milestone, one that was unexpected.
It happened while Wiens was visiting his former nurses at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
"I was smiling just because I enjoyed seeing them all again and one of them mentioned the fact that I was smiling and I said, 'No I'm not.'"
Wiens explains he knew he was smiling on the inside, but up until recently the nerves in his face hadn't developed to where you could see the smile on the outside.
Now, his smile is there for the world to see.
"It's really the way you tell who somebody is inside. Because of the way their face looks," he said.
"I had people ask me what was wrong just because of the way... my face looked, because I looked like I was sad. So sad, happy, you know- pretty much any emotion I can do now, which is incredible to me."
Wiens said it's important for his 4-year-old daughter, Scarlett to see his smile.
It's just one small step on a journey that's far from over.
"My long term goal is just literally see where it goes. Because already I feel like I've gained so much back that I'm impressed! So, just see where it's going to end up."