United States woman who shot herself receives face transplant

United States woman who shot herself receives face transplant

A 21-year-old woman who tried to take her own life by shooting herself in the face has become the youngest person in the United States to receive a face transplant.

During the years between Stubblefield's suicide attempt and her groundbreaking face transplant, National Geographic photographer Maggie Steber followed Stubblefield around for a full two and a half years, capturing her day-to-day life.

Three years later, she underwent a face transplant.

But 22 operations later, including her full-face transplant, Katie has made a decision to tell her tale to help others battling suicidal thoughts.

Besides improving her appearance, the surgery would allow her to speak more clearly, and breathe, chew, and swallow more effectively, the clinic said.

The extensive 31-hour procedure took a team of 11 surgeons and multiple specialists, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which carried out the transplant.

Following the attempt, part of her forehead, nose and sinuses, her mouth except for the corners of her lips and much of her jaw bones were gone, according to National Geographic.

"I am able to touch my face now, and it feels unbelievable", she said.

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.

"We think her story is one of the most important stories that we will do this year. Then when you receive a transplant, you're so thankful", her father added.

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Specialists at the Cleveland Clinic in OH transplanted the scalp, forehead, eyelids and nose as well as parts of her cheeks, jaw, muscle, teeth and more, the hospital explained in a report, "effectively replacing 100% of the patient's facial tissue".

It was after a wait for nearly a year of being on the transplant list, that Katie found her match.

"We would do that for anybody, but many of us are parents ourselves and we saw what her own parents were going through". After dealing with the effects of her family relocating for the second time in just a couple of years, chronic gastrointestinal troubles led her to have her appendix and gallbladder removed.

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

Five weeks after the incident, Stubblefield was brought to Cleveland Clinic.

Stubblefield has said that she wants to go to school now to become a counselor, and to work with other suicide survivors in the future.

The surgery was performed at the Cleveland Clinic in OH in May and paid for by the US Department of Defence through the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

Ms. Stubblefield plans to attend online college to pursue a career in counseling and motivational speaking to raise awareness about suicide and its prevention. Katie, 22, one year and one month after her surgery.

"My first wish for Katie is to be happy", Gastman said.

"They're like eagles who are protecting a young bird".

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