Shanghai-based Canadian documentary photographer Ryan Pyle informs us:
It appears that Li Guoxing, the first recipient of a face transplant surgery in China as been confirmed dead. Li Guoxing received a face transplant surgery in 2006 from surgeon Guo Shuzhong in Xi’an, China. If you can remember Mr. Li, 30 years old when he had the surgery, had is face ripped off by a bear while hunting in rural Yunnan province where he lived in a small village community. Mr. Li’s death, it has been said, was due to an infection because he wasn’t taking prescribed immune-system drugs properly. Another report says he was favoring herbal medicines instead. No final report on the death will be available because Mr. Li has been buried for several months now, and no autopsy was completed.
Li Guoxing’s surgery in 2006 was a ground breaking moment for Chinese surgery and something that I, as a photographer, was interested in covering. Although because I was a foreign journalist in China I was denied access to document Li Guoxing for almost a year after the surgery. In the summer of 2007 I was able to travel to Xi’an and, with Dr. Guo Zhuzhong’s permission, follow Li Guoxing for a few days and document his life 1 year after the surgery. I had scheduled a visit to Mr. Li’s village for 2009 to see how he was coping with his surgery in his natural environment, but that story won’t be possible. Below is a link to the photo essay I shot of Li Guoxing when I visited the hospital in Xi’an in 2007. Above is a slide show of that essay.
More on Li’s case from AFP. The world’s first face transplant took place just three years ago in France on a woman who was mauled by a dog. Another one has been subsequently conducted on a European man with a genetic disorder. America’s first near-total face transplant has been conducted recently in Cleveland.