Published: Fri, August 17, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Katie Stubblefield, 21, is youngest in America to have face transplant

Katie Stubblefield, 21, is youngest in America to have face transplant

Stubblefield's journey is far from over though - she can not see, and is learning braille, and will also have further surgeries on her tongue and jaw.

At an all-time low, Ms Stubblefield made the decision to kill herself.

"'The Story of a Face' is about hope and resilience, identity, the power of a family's love and devotion to their daughter, and the medical miracle that gives Katie Stubblefield a second chance at life", said Susan Goldberg, Editorial Director of National Geographic Partners and Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic magazine.

In a world that seems increasingly obsessed with image, National Geographic has today unveiled an exclusive and powerful new story, over two years in the making, that asks the question: 'Are we our faces?' Though she survived the gunshot, the wound disfigured a large portion of her face, reported The Independent.

The bullet destroyed her nose and her sinuses, part of her forehead, almost all of her mouth and the bones of her jaw and the front of her face as well as leaving her eyes askew and badly damaged.

He said: "Her brain was basically exposed and, I mean, we are talking seizures and infections and all kinds of problems".

In order for the surgery to take place, Stubblefield was placed on a transplant list for more than a year before a donor match was found.

Her donor - Adrea Schneider - was a 31-year-old woman who died of a drug overdose.

The procedure involved replacing Ms Stubblefield's 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.

A journalist and photographers followed her preparation and the results from the invasive 31-hour procedure.

Now for the rest of her life, she will continue to be on medication to minimize the risk of transplant rejection, she is also taking physical and occupational therapy, including help from a speech therapist.

"I had no clue what a face transplant was", Ms Stubblefield said.

She has also expressed an interest in speaking to teenagers about suicide and the value of life.

Despite the challenges, she hopes to be a counselor or teacher.

She told the Cleveland Clinic Ethics Committee "I can't go backward".

"I'm starting over in a lot of ways", Stubblefield says through her parents, Robb and Alesia.

She hopes to speak to teenagers about suicide prevention, echoing what she told CNN: "Life is precious, and life is handsome".

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