top of page
Subscribe here for free:

Thanks for subscribing!

The Man with a New Face

In these days when there is so much turmoil over politics, race, sexual orientation, abortion and guns, it is heartwarming to hear the story of a man who has suffered unimaginably and still is working to help his fellow human beings.

That is the story of Robert Chelsea, the man with a new face, as shared on this episode of The Lean to the Left Podcast.

It was a Monday evening when Chelsea was driving to his Los Angeles home when his car overheated. He pulled to the side of the freeway to wait for help when a drunk driver crossed three lanes and slammed into his car, which exploded on impact.

Chelsea was so severely burned that when a Good Samaritan tried to pull him to safety, he had to do so carefully, Chelsea says now, because his "arm was melting."

On the way to the hospital in an ambulance, Chelsea says he was wondering who would come pick him up and take him home after treatment. And then, six months later he woke up from a coma, during which time numerous surgeries were performed as doctors fought to keep him alive.

Chelsea remained in the hospital for another year with multiple more surgeries to deal with the severe burns that covered most of his face and body. Facial tissue, including his lips had been burned off. Altogether he has endured more than 30 surgeries.

In July 2019, after years of tests and physical and psychological evaluations, and a longer than usual wait for a donor because of the difficulty in finding a match, Chelsea underwent a 16-hour full face transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. At 64, he became the first Black patient, and the oldest in the world, to receive a full-face transplant.

He was able to have that transplant under a Defense Department grant that provided funding for 10 such procedures to make sure they would be successful before making the surgery available to more than 300 soldiers who had suffered such injuries in combat.

"When my daughter sees Robert Chelsea, she sees her dad's soul, but her visual is another man's face," he says as he expresses gratitude to the family of his donor and the medical personnel who worked miracles to save his life and make his face whole again.

"I was good with my burned face," he says. "So why wouldn't I be happy with this one?"

Today, relatively healthy, although on multiple prescription medications, Robert operates the Robert Chelsea Foundation, dedicated to increasing awareness of the benefits of the donation of organs, limbs, bone marrow and certain stem cells. He also works with the families of organ donors to help them through the emotional trauma of that experience.

Chelsea invites contributions to the Foundation by individuals and corporate sponsors, and says volunteers are also welcome. More info can be found here.

This is an incredible human being. You need to hear his story:

Here is the video interview:

51 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All


What an incredibly humbling story. Medical technology has really brought miraculous healing to many. Tears in eyes as this is such a moving story.

bottom of page