Li Guoxing looked at his new face in the mirror for the first time and was pleased.
He then pressed his doctor's hand firmly to celebrate the passage of the most dangerous period after groundbreaking face-transplant surgery.
Li, 30, a farmer from Yunnan Province in southwest China, received China's first face transplant and only the world's second on Friday at Xijing Hospital in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
"Li has completely regained consciousness and is able to take some liquid food," Zhang Hui, the doctor who is in charge of post-surgery treatment, told China Daily yesterday.
The hospital earlier said in a statement that Li had been badly mauled in an encounter with a black bear in Yunnan two years ago.
The operation, which lasted 14 hours from Thursday afternoon to early morning on Friday, transplanted two-thirds part of a human face from a brain-dead male to repair Li's damaged face, according to Zhang Zhiying, director of the hospital.
"The first 24 hours after surgery are the most dangerous period, for the microsurgery may cause blood-vessel damage," Zhang Hui said.
Even though the patient is in a stable condition, he will be totally isolated for more than two weeks, the doctor said.
On Saturday, the doctors allowed Li to check out his new face in the mirror, but would not let him move to let the wound heal properly.
"It is a subtle psychological process for Li to accept his new looks," said Guo Shuzhong and Han Yan, doctors who performed the surgery.
"The surgery scar will not be obvious but there is a difference in the donor's and recipient's skin color, so that will be noticeable," Zhang Hui said.
Li's nephew Qiao Xiurong, who came with him to the hospital, said he telephoned the good news to the family in Yunnan on Saturday and Li's wife responded that she was more worried about his health than his looks.
Six months ago, doctors in Amiens, France, performed the world's first such procedure, transplanting lips, a chin and a nose on to a woman who had been attacked by a dog.
(China Daily April 17, 2006)