Isabelle Dinoire has died 11 years after receiving a new mouth, nose, and chin in the world's first partial face transplant, the Guardian reports. She was 49. The procedure was seen as a medical breakthrough at the time, notes the AP. Dinoire died in April, but her death wasn't announced until Tuesday, as the French woman's family originally hoped to keep it private. The BBC reports Dinoire had been happy with the results of the transplant but not with the international attention it brought her. The announcement of her death mentioned only a long illness, but the BBC reports Dinoire died from cancer, to which she was vulnerable because of the immunosuppressants needed to keep her body from rejecting her new face.
The Guardian reports Dinoire wanted "to forget" her problems when she took sleeping pills in 2005. When she came to, she went to light a cigarette only to discover her pet dog had chewed off her mouth and nose. She believed her dog was trying to save her. Dinoire's injuries were too severe for facial reconstruction, leading to the groundbreaking surgery. "I have a face like everyone else," the AP quotes Dinoire as saying a year after her surgery. "A door to the future is opening." But it wasn't easy. Getting used to the inside of a new mouth, for example. "It was soft," the Guardian quotes Dinoire as saying. "It was horrible." And she had lost partial use of her lips last year as her body continued to reject the new face. Nearly 40 face transplants have been performed since Dinoire's operation. (This hand transplant recipient regrets having surgery.)