21 year old girl turns youngest to receive face transplant

17 August, 2018, 19:42 | Author: Stuart Potter
  • Katie Stubblefield survived a gunshot to face at age 18. Now she's the youngest person to receive a complete face transplant in U.S. history

A 21-year-old woman who attempted suicide by shooting herself in the face became the youngest person in the United States to receive a face transplant. "There was an older trauma surgeon who basically told us, 'It's the worst wound that I've ever seen of its kind, ' and he said, 'The only thing I can think of that would really give her functional life again is a face transplant, '" Stubblefield's father, Robb said, via CNN.

More than a year removed from the historic surgery, Katie's emotional journey is being documented in National Geographic's September issue, entitled "The Story Of A Face".

A young woman is making history by using her personal story of struggle and dedication to raise awareness about the potential consequences of suicide. She survived, but the injury resulted in the loss of her face.

Dr Brian Gastman, one of the surgeons who operated on Katie, said: "Her whole story made our team come together much faster, and we sort of ran toward her to take care of her".

Image: The 21-year-old said she had been given a "second chance". She rarely went out in public except to see doctors. The transplant, performed past year, aims to restore Katie's face structure and functions - such as chewing, breathing and swallowing - which were lost in a severe gunshot injury, the haunting outcome of a suicide attempt as a teenager.

Stubblefield said of the idea when it was first suggested, "I had no clue what a face transplant was". "Now I want to help other people".

"I felt so guilty that I had put my family through such pain".

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Ms Stubblefield was on the transplant list for over a year before a donor was found: Andrea Schneider, a 31-year-old organ donor who had recently passed away, was a match.

Her procedure involved replacing her full facial tissue - transplanting the scalp, forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw and half of lower jaw, upper teeth, lower teeth, partial facial nerves, muscles and skin.

It was after a wait for nearly a year of being on the transplant list, that Katie found her match. She also has to continue with physical and occupational therapy for the time being. She is the 40th person in the world known to have received a new face.

"I am forever grateful for the care this hospital has given me and continues to offer on my journey of recovery and healing", Stubblefield said in a statement previous year from the clinic.

Now 22, she has shared her story and incredible photos of her transplant journey with National Geographic. Permission required for reproduction.

On one of her daily walks in the hospital, Katie sings as she exercises with physio Becky Vano (at left) and physio student Nicole Bliss.

Stubblefield now hopes to go to college and study counseling, to teach teenagers the value of life. Almost 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016, and more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.

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