05/01/2013 02:06 EDT | Updated 05/01/2013 02:24 EDT

Carmen Tarleton Face Transplant Unveiled Years After Attack (PHOTOS)

Carmen Tarleton, whose then-estranged husband attacked her with industrial-strength lye that disfigured her face, revealed the results of a face transplant at a news conference on Wednesday.

The 44-year-old former nurse and mother of two from Vermont underwent surgery in February, nearly six years after the attack that left her with burns to 80 per cent of her body.

"I have been on this incredible journey for the past six years and receiving this wonderful gift ends this chapter of my life," said Tarleton, quoted in the Daily Mail.

Because Tarleton’s immune system had so many antibodies from previous blood transfusions and surgeries, it took 14 months to find a donor, according to CNN. She had undergone over 50 surgeries in the years prior to the transplant.

The transplant, which gave her new facial skin, muscles, nerves and tendons, took 15 hours and a medical team of more than 30, the Associated Press reported.

After the procedure, her body began to reject the transplant and if it continued, doctors may have had to remove it, the Boston Globe said. They managed to save the day with a reduced dose of a potentially hazardous drug.

Tarleton can now smile, and expects to be able to make other facial expressions in the future. A pain in her neck has also subsided. She remains blind in one eye, and will need follow-up operations and a lifetime of medication.

Tarleton met the daughter of donor Cheryl Denelli-Righter for the first time on Tuesday, the Daily Mail reported.

“I get to feel my mother's skin again and see her freckles and through you I get to see my mother live on. This is truly a blessing,” she said.

Tarleton wrote a book about her experience called "Overcome: Burned, Blinded, and Blessed," and has said she has forgiven her ex-husband, Herbert Rodgers, for the attack.

Rodgers is now serving a minimum of 30 years in prison.

Warning: This gallery contains pre- and post-face transplant images that may be sensitive to some readers