Boston, MA – Lye attack victim Carmen Blandin Tarleton has publicly revealed her new face for the first time.
The 44-year-old, who was doused with industrial-strength lye in 2007 by then-husband Herbert Rodgers, received face transplant surgery at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in February.
The Vermont woman revealed her new face at a news conference Wednesday during which she spoke publicly about her experience for the first time. You can see Carmen’s conference in the video below.
“I’m now in a better place, mentally and emotionally, than I ever could have imagined six years ago,” reflected the lye attack victim. “I want to share my experience with others, so they may find that strength inside themselves to escape their own pain.”
Tarleton added that she had been through “what some may call hell,” but says she has has discovered happiness.
The mother-of-two was attacked by ex-husband Rodgers after he accused her of seeing another man. Police say Rodgers went looking for Tarleton’s alleged lover, only to find Tarleton. He struck her with a baseball bat and poured lye from a squeeze bottle onto her face.
By the time police arrived at the scene of the crime, the lye attack victim was attempting to crawl to a shower to wash away the chemical, which had already eaten away at her face. Rodgers pleaded guilty to the attack and, in 2009, was given a prison sentence of at least 30 years.
More than 30 surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses took part in Tarleton’s face transplant surgery, working for more than 15 hours to replace skin, muscles, tendons, and nerves. The face donor was a Williamstown woman, Cheryl Denelli Righter, who died of a sudden stroke this year.
Speaking at Wednesday’s conference, Cheryl Righter’s daughter, Marinda, told Tarleton she looked beautiful and suggested her mother would have been delighted to help Tarleton. “They are both mothers, they are both survivors, they are both beacons of light,” she said.
She said that seeing Tarleton, pictured above in a 2006 photo, reminded her of her mother. She told the lye attack victim, “I get to feel my mother’s skin again, I get to see my mother’s freckles and, through you, I get to see my mother live on. This is truly a blessing.”
Tarleton, who has been left blind by the 2007 attack, thanked Righter’s family for what she called “a tremendous gift” that has significantly reduced the physical pain she previously endured on a daily basis.
The Boston woman, who has written a book about her experiences, also spoke about the victims of the recent Boston Marathon bombings. Discussing the tragedy, she told reporters:
“There is a lot to learn and take from horrific events that happen. I want others to know that they need not give up on feeling themselves when tragedy strikes, but instead they can make a choice to find the good and allow that to help them heal.”
Lye has a devastating effect on living tissue including skin, flesh, and cornea. It is capable of causing chemical burns, permanent injuries or scarring, and blindness upon contact and may even be fatal if swallowed.