Youngest American Woman To Receive Full Face Transplant, One Year Post-Op

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

"When my parents helped explain everything to me, I was very excited to get a face again and to have function again". 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.

"Her face is gone", he told the magazine recalling the moment he found her sister. "That's number one, but beyond that, I'd like her to have some level of normalcy".

Ms Stubblefield now takes medication to reduce the risk of organ rejection, and will do so for the rest of her life. And she is speaking about her surgery to help warn of the lasting harms of suicide. But this final stop was where she would receive her full 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.

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. Her life was saved in Memphis and she was transferred to the Cleveland Clinic in OH, where 15 specialists "patched her face" (Connors explains how).

However, the skin grafts kept falling off, and doctors soon suggested the idea of a "face transplant" to her parents. We're so happy to report that the transplant was successful - what a miracle!

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"So many people have helped me; now I want to help other people", she said. She was raised by her grandmother, Sandra Bennington, since she was four-years-old and adopted by her at the age of 11.

Stubblefield will remain a lifelong subject in the study of a still experimental procedure. "Further, on the other hand, how much a singular rash decision made by so many young people today could negatively change your whole life".

During the surgery, Stubblefield received a new nose, lips, palate, eyelids, and jaw, as well as a new facial cover.

In the U.S., suicide rates significantly climbed in 44 states from 1999 through 2016, according to a report published in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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.

In 2016, guns were the most common method used in suicide deaths in the United States, accounting for 22,963 - nearly half of all - suicide deaths, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. They are warriors. They're like eagles who are protecting a young bird.

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