February 13, 2006 12:00 PM

On Jan. 26, the world’s first face transplant recipient traveled 300 miles from a hospital in the French city of Lyon to her hometown of Valenciennes. And while she walked on the street in plain sight, “I’m not quite ready to see all my old friends, or even my family,” Isabelle Dinoire, 39, told one of her doctors. “But this is a step in the right direction.”

Still, Dinoire—whose Nov. 27 surgery stunned the world—”has to be so careful,” says one of her doctors, who adds that her medical team’s greatest fear is that she could “fall over, or knock into something. A tiny scratch and a little bit of dirt could cause an awful amount of damage.” For her part, Dinoire, says the doctor, is self-conscious about her scars and drooping lower lip, but hopes that her appearance will improve when she’s recovered.

One problem that appears solved: money. According to her Lyon attorney, Ahmed Akkal, the formerly unemployed mother of two teenage daughters already stands to receive approximately $900,000 from a book and documentary about her ordeal, as well as a feature film. As Dinoire told her lawyer, “All I want is that it—and my own life—have a happy ending.”

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