21-year-old receives historic face transplant

15 August, 2018, 13:57 | Author: Cecil Buchanan
  • Katie Stubblefield

Her story, "The Story of a Face", is the cover story of National Geographic's September issue.

Katie Stubblefield's face was gravely injured when she shot herself in a suicide attempt when she was 18 in 2014. She then drove to her brother's house and tried to commit suicide with a rifle, shooting through her chin but miraculously surviving the attempt.

"Her face is gone", he told the magazine recalling the moment he found her sister.

Plastic surgeon Dr Brian Gastman, the first clinic doctor to see Katie and the man who would go on to lead her transplant procedure, recalled to NatGeo that he was initially only concerned with stabilizing Katie, and he anxious that even if that went to plan, there wouldn't be enough tissue available for corrective surgeries due to her small size.

Katie Stubblefield (pictured left in 2013 and right in 2018) has become the youngest person in the United States to receive a face transplant after the country's first face transplant on Connie Culp in 2008.

"Knowing this patient now has the opportunity to live a functional life because of her face transplant is the greatest reward", Dr. Gastman, said in a statement.

It's no secret why National Geographic would choose to have Katie Stubblefield, 21, on the cover of their latest issue.

She said she was shocked: "I never thought of doing that ever before, and so on hearing about it, I just didn't know how to handle it". That's quite a privileged position.

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Stubblefield's older brother, Robert, was the one who found her - covered in blood.

'Life is precious and life is attractive, ' she said.

Another photographer, Lynn Johnson, stepped in for Steber and photographed the surgery.

Stubblefield finally received a potential face donor from Adrea Schneider, a 31-year-old single mother who died of a drug overdose.

Ms Stubblefield now takes medication to reduce the risk of organ rejection, and will do so for the rest of her life. She also added that Schneider's son was not yet aware that his mother's face was being used, too, though he presumably will be soon. The procedure was Cleveland Clinic's third of its kind and the 40th known in the world. Brian Gastman and Frank Papay of the Cleveland Clinic led the surgery, which required 31 hours.

Meanwhile, her parents, who both worked as teachers at her school, were made redundant.

Among young people, "I think we do a pretty decent job of educating them about sex and about drinking and driving", but education around suicide prevention is lacking, Alesia said.

Although her eyes remained, they were askew and badly damaged, and for the longest time Katie couldn't see. "With a new nose, lips, palate, eyelids and jaw, she now has the full opportunity to re-integrate into society and have a future just like any other young adult".

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