Three years after a gunshot wound to the face left her with severe facial trauma, a woman last year became the youngest recipient of a full-face transplant in the United States, and now hopes to use her story to offer hope to others.
Katie Stubblefield was 18 when she attempted suicide on Mar 25, 2014 and suffered a facial gunshot wound.
She lost part of her forehead, nose, most of her mouth, her jaw and her eyes were badly damaged.
"Her brain was basically exposed, and I mean, we were talking seizures and infections and all kinds of problems. Forget the face transplant; we were talking about just being alive," one of her doctors, Brian Gastman, told National Geographic.
It was only after three years of hospital stays and treatments that the then 21-year-old received a full face transplant in May last year, according to a GoFundMe page detailing her story.
"At 21 years old, Katie Stubblefield was the youngest person in the United States to receive a face transplant," .
"After a failed attempt at suicide, a new face, and a new perspective on life, her goal is to use her story of suffering, triumph, and joy to offer hope to those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide, especially in a time where suicide is pervading our culture."
After the suicide attempt, Katie lost most of her vision, had a compromised ability to speak and was unable to take care of herself, the page said. She was transferred to the Cleveland Clinic with the hopes of an eventual face transplant.
She was placed on the waiting list for a face transplant in March 2016 and a donor was found 14 months later: Adrea Schneider, a 31-year-old woman who died of a drug overdose.
The extensive 31-hour procedure took a team of 11 surgeons and multiple specialists, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which carried out the transplant.
Detailing the procedure in an article on its website, the clinic said the surgery included: "Transplantation of the scalp, the forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw and half of lower jaw, upper teeth, lower teeth, partial facial nerves, facial muscles, and skin“ with 100 per cent of her facial tissue effectively replaced."
Besides improving her appearance, the surgery would allow her to speak more clearly, and breathe, chew, and swallow more effectively, the clinic said.
However, Katie currently remains unable to see and is learning Braille, according to the clinic.
"She has also undergone additional surgeries to improve function in her tongue and jaw," it added.
"I’m definitely taking many, many daily steps, Life is precious, and life is beautiful " Her words.
“Thanks to the Doctors and Nurses”.
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