Talented jazz musician Taron Pounds was so badly injured in a fireworks explosion at a family party in July that his mother said that she didn't recognise him the first time she saw him in the hospital.
Suffering severe wounds to his nose, eye, neck and chest, the left side of the 22-year-old's face was literally 'blown off' and doctors told his family that he was lucky to still be alive.
Despite this the guitarist has come through a 22-hour operation in Oklahoma City on Friday during which doctors used part of the bone and skin from his leg to begin the difficult task of reconstructing his face.
Celebrating a family wedding at his home when the stray firework exploded into his face on July 7th, Pounds was rushed to OU Medical Center in Tulsa as a level one trauma patient close to death.
Coming through one month in intensive care, doctors shifted their focus to restoring what they physically could of Pounds' horribly disfigured face.
'Taron lost a lot of bone and tissue. He is really missing a lot of bone in the left eye area, the nose and the roof of his mouth,' said Trinitia Cannon, M.D., an ear, nose and throat specialist at OU Medical Center and one of the lead surgeons in the marathon surgical effort.
'We were able to take bone and skin from his leg, as well as blood vessels that keep that skin alive and we basically reconstruct his face with that.'
Taron Pounds hugs his step-father David Cauthron (left) and his mother Tammy Cauthron before his massive operation on Friday.
During the marathon operation, two surgical teams worked in tandem in the operating room - the first led by Cannon, spent time on the face and neck area attempting to close the four inch hole in Pounds' face left by the blast.
The second team, headed by ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Jose Sanclement harvested bone and tissue from the left leg used by the first team for the facial reconstruction.
'It’s basically a transplant,' said Sanclement.
'We are transplanting a piece of bone to another place in the body. It is sort of like a puzzle finding the right pieces and then when we have the right pieces, we establish blood supply.'
In the accident, Pounds suffered the loss of most of the bone that holds and stabilises his mid-face, in addition to a substantial amount of nasal and cheek bone which support his left eye, the roof of his mouth and teeth.
Five days after the operation, doctors expressed their satisfaction with Pounds' progress as they monitored blood flow through the transplanted blood vessels and skin and bone.
'Mentally and emotionally, he has a lot of healing to go through,' said Cannon to KJRH.
In July, Pounds was at a family party in Inola, in charge of fireworks, when something went badly wrong.
Pounds lit the fuse of a commercial-grade mortar shell, and seconds later, his family members saw the firework explode on the ground. 'I didn’t even recognize him,' said Tammy Cauthron, Pounds' mother, of the first time she saw him after the accident.
'His face was blown off -- the left side gone.
'The left side of his face was peeled back and parts missing. I literally identified my son by his fraternity tattoo.'
'This really is every parent’s nightmare -- to have this much damage to our child. What do dads do? We fix stuff and Dad can’t fix this one,' said David Cauthron, Pounds’ stepfather.
Dr. Cannon admitted to Newsok that the first time she saw Pounds, she was unsure where his nasal passages were because of the extensive damage.
Together with Dr. Sanclement, the physicians have been working up to this operation for several weeks, performing smaller surgeries to repair his jaw and stabilise the bones around his mouth.
Pounds will now spend another five days in recovery at the hospital before returning home to continue his recovery and his next surgery will most likely be in another two months.
He still cannot see out of his left eye, however doctors are unsure whether his sight will be restored.
And his surgical team believe that it will still be another six months before Pounds is back to what's 'cosmetically acceptable' for him in the long term.
'Taron has accepted ... he's not going to be exactly what you see in this picture ever again, inside or outside,' said Tammy Cauthron.
'He's changed. This is a life-changing event for our entire family. 'For Taron, it's physical, as well as emotional and mental. There's a lot of changes — for the good, I know he's a much stronger man because of this.'/dailymail.co.uk/