(CNN)Seven years ago, Carmen Tarleton received a face transplant, a decision she made after her estranged husband attacked her in 2007 with a bottle of lye, disfiguring her face beyond recognition. The transplant was a grueling, complex, surgical procedure -- one that ultimately proved unsuccessful.
She is the first American to get a new face twice
But last month, Tarleton, a 52-year-old former nurse, chose to do it again, making her the first American and only the second person ever to undergo the procedure twice.
The surgery, which took place at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital in July, involved more than 45 clinicians over the span of approximately 20 hours, according to a hospital news release.
"That first face transplant served me very well," Tarleton, who is recovering from her home in New Hampshire, told CNN. "And when it started to fail I just knew from experience that a face transplant gives me the comfort and function I want and need on a daily level -- that I'm going to live a better life with a face transplant."
Now, she said, "all the pain I had in my failing face is gone." Since the operation, she said she's experiencing only "incisional and swelling" related pain.
Her doctors agreed that the recovery is going smoothly.
"Carmen is progressing and recovering very nicely with this second transplant -- she is one of the most resilient patients that I have had the opportunity to care for," Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, Brigham's director of Plastic Surgery Transplantation who led the effort, said in the release. "We call this procedure live-giving, and we are thrilled to offer her the opportunity to return to the type of life that she so richly deserves."
Tarleton's first face transplant proved ultimately unsuccessful because her body had started to reject the donor tissue, causing scarring, tightness, swelling, and pain, she and the hospital said.
In 2007, her estranged husband attacked her with a bottle of lye, severely burning 85% of her body and disfiguring her face.
Because she became sensitized by the lifesaving blood products and tissue grafts to treat her burns, Tarleton became more immunologically likely to reject the first transplant, the hospital said.
"Going into her second face transplant, Carmen was not highly sensitized, not at high risk of rejection, as she had lost nearly all of the HLA antibodies in