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Jessica Maki, MS, was a senior studying for final exams at Northeastern University when she received news that would change her and her family’s life.
A donor had been identified for her father, Jim Maki, for a partial face transplant—the first surgery of its kind at the Brigham.
“We had heard about the surgery, but I never thought it would be possible,” said Jessica, now the Brigham’s media relations and social media specialist. “We got the call and had a 20-hour window before surgery.”
Four years prior, Jim had suffered a devastating injury after falling onto an electrified third rail at a subway station, an accident that disfigured his face. Jessica spent the next few years accompanying her father to his appointments at the Brigham, which she says is the “only place he feels normal.”
“When he walks through the hospital doors, he is so excited,” Jessica said.
Her father remained positive despite the years of difficulty he faced following the accident, Jessica said. Such routine activities as breathing, eating and speaking were hindered. Going out in public was distressing for both father and daughter.
But when Jim’s team at BWH, led by Bohdan Pomahac, MD, director of the BWH Burn Center and Plastic Surgery Transplantation Program, informed the Makis that Jim was eligible for surgery and there was a donor, Jim got a second chance at life. In April 2009, a team of more than 30 specialists worked for nearly 20 hours to perform the nation’s second partial face transplant. They replaced Jim’s nose, upper lip and hard palate, and facial skin, nerves and muscle.
“My dad adores Dr. Pomahac,” said Jessica, who was there when her father got out of surgery and later watched as he looked at himself in the mirror for the first time after the procedure.
“He was in shock, and I think he said, ‘It’s nice,’” said Jessica. “He thinks the care at the Brigham is the best. I do, too.”
Her father’s experience and the quality of care he received inspired Jessica to seek employment at the Brigham earlier this year after she completed Boston University’s graduate communications program.
“I knew the Brigham would be the place I wanted to work,” she said.
In March, she began in BWH Communication & Public Affairs, where she works on the hospital’s social media strategy and spreads its mission of quality patient care, research, teaching and community programs to news outlets.
“It’s wonderful to be able to share stories about our amazing staff and inspiring patients,” said Jessica, who credits her father’s surgery for sparking her interest in science and medicine.
An only child, Jessica remains close to her dad and talks with him on the phone every day. She says he is doing well and spends his free time playing bridge at a senior center twice a week.
And when he’s at the hospital for appointments, “we meet for a milkshake at Pat’s Place,” said Jessica, smiling.