Daily Mail – Soldier who survives suicide blast happy to be alive after 43 facial surgeries in last four years

Just barely surviving a roadside blast in Afghanistan, a U.S soldier received 43 facial surgeries in four years' time, today facing a new life and face, while thankful to be alive. Five years ago, travelling in the city of Kabul, Army Staff Sgt. Todd M. Nelson's Toyota Land Cruiser was blown up, shredded, by a suicide driver's parked car. It was 45 days before the end of his second one-year combat tour and he was left barely alive and entirely unrecognisable. Sgt. Todd Nelson is shown with his wife, Sarah, at the BAMC holiday ball less than four months after returning from Afghanistan in a coma
Sgt Nelson attended the BAMC holiday ball with his wife, Sarah, mere months after arriving in San Antonio from Afghanistan in a coma
  The explosion's shock wave alone was enough to crush his face, smashing every bone that lifted and framed his skin before it was was further slashed by blown metal and glass. A fireball next, it seared his right arm, burning off his nose, ears, eyelids, and hair beneath his helmet, charring any reminisces of his face. When he first arrived in a coma at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, the beating of his heart was the only signal to doctors that he was still alive. Doctors say a decade ago, Sgt Nelson would have had a slim chance of that survival, however.
Sgt Todd Nelson's neighbouring car was ripped to shreds after a suicide bomber in Afghanistan detonated his vehicle as he drove byExplosion: The detonation of a suicide bomber's vehicle ripped through Sgt Nelson's as he passed in the Afghanistan city of Kabul
  'I remember waking up and actually seeing my own reflection in the mirror,' Sgt Nelson recalls to the Huffington Post, naming off the loss of his right ear and eye. 'My right eye was, nothing but a cavity because they had to take the right eye out. The nose was pretty much burned so I looked like Skeletor off of the cartoon channel.' Despite this, having married just six months prior to his deployment to a woman he credits for pulling him through his treatment, he says he saw himself fortunate.
Sgt Nelson has an artificial ear fitted to his head which is magnetised to a plate in his skullFitting: Sgt Nelson sits for an artificial ear fitting which will stay attached to his head by magnets
Sgt Nelson has an artificial ear fitted to his head which is magnetised to a plate in his skull
Detonated: The bomb that shattered his face and vehicle occurred just 45 days before the end of his tour in Afghanistan
  'All I could think to myself was, ‘I guess I can live with this.’ Because I felt fortunate just to be alive,' he says. But four years and 43 surgeries later -- that he says he knows of -- he has accomplished the very minimum of his desires. 'I wanted my eyelids to close, I wanted to be able to breathe through my nose and I wanted to be able to eat a good-sized hamburger too,' he describes.
Surgeons were able to provide him with a prosthetic eye, ear and build him a right eyelid over the one he had lost.
But while synthetic skin, pig skin and cadaver skin did manage to cover successfully in grafts across his face, he has yet to get the nose he most desires, one with any kind of bridge to it.
Sgt Nelson has an artificial ear fitted to his head which is magnetised to a plate in his skullArtificial life: A doctor displays the artificial right ear made for Sgt Nelson
  He will also require a lifetime of immuno-suppression treatment in order for the skin to stay. 'Once they stop that medicine, whatever body part you gave them from somebody else will be rejected,' Dr. Robert G. Hale, director of head, jaw and face research (or craniomaxillofacial) at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio, explained to the Huffington Post.
'I had been in the military at that point 17 years and you really learn to roll with the punches' Sgt Nelson says though on his dedicated service prior to the roadside blast.
But adding to a question of whether he holds regret or anger to his circumstances, he answers, 'no. This is the best country it could have ever happen to you in.'
Sgt Todd Nelson photographed in AfghanistanAfghanistan: Sgt. Nelson shown in uniform prior to the roadside blast that nearly killed him
  After the world's first facial transplant in France in 2005, the US Defence Department has funded all five of the following American transplants using a $3.4 million grant. It's a recovery Sgt Nelson says has provided him with some of the best skin a burn-victim could receive, he's most grateful for, though he's taken a break from while waiting with many others as the science and technology improves. Some of the work soon expected is human-engineered skin as well as spray-on skin developed from a patient's very own stem cells. 'Twenty years from now, I think we will be able to regenerate the entire face,' Dr Hale says. But Sgt Nelson says 'life is too short to live for the weekends,' instead pursuing a college degree in education, buying his first Harley Davidson motorcycle and attributing his religious faith for carrying him through this. When it comes to war, he says, 'you really learn that you are out of control. That this life is not in your control, so you turn to your faith. And that prepared me for this.' Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2050200/US-Solider.html#ixzz1rqDprB2Z