Facing a face transplant

Nipuni, ScienceWeekly , , 0 Comments

Our faces hold our identity. Now you might tell looks have no importance. But though we look good or not, our face is the most obvious fact the world uses to recognize us. So being faceless is somewhat equivalent to being identity less.  In a world filled with cosmetics; promising you to give a better face, surviving as a faceless needs to have extra level of courage.  The story of 21 years old Katie Stubblefield teach us about patience, courage and most importantly how to accept second  chances in life.

Katie Stubblefield had been a 19 year old pretty face owner in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. March 25, 2014, was the day that turned her whole life upside down. At the age of 19  the breakup with her boyfriend was the end of her world.  She ended up firing herself with a rifle, taking most of the bullets to her face in a suicidal attempt. Whatever the excuses she had to abandon and flee from life, she was given a second chance with a higher prize. She was saved by good hands in Cleveland clinic. But her pretty face that resisted the touch of firing bullets was gone. She had to undergo 22 surgeries to reconstruct her destroyed face, still, she had no lips, no nose or chin but a layer of stitched and hammered skin covering her facial bones.

Katie before her accident
Katie after her accident







Katie’s parents Robb and Alesia never gave up hope. They completely devoted themselves to Katie’s never ending hospitalizations, medications and treatments. They were far more courageous than Katie; with or without a face they want her to face the life as an ordinary teenager. Apart from Katie’s regular hospital visits they took her to cinema, shopping, summer walks and dinner outs assisting her to be thankful for the second chance she received to live.

Katie waited for more than 1 year in the face transplant recipient list. After 3 years of her accident Katie’s wait was over. Sandra Bennington decided to make her granddaughter, Andrea Schneider as the donor of Katie’s transplant. Andrea was a victim of drug overdose who failed to recover. Surgeons consulted 3D models of Katie’s skull and donor’s skull to compare and contrast the features of 2 different faces. During a 31 hour operation surgeons first removed the face from the donor and effectively replaced 100 percent of Katie’s face. During the transplant Katie received forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, mouth and lips, Cheeks, upper jaw and part of lower jaw, teeth and facial muscles.

Andrea, donor of transplant

Katie is the youngest person in U.S. to have a face transplant. After the transplant Katie’s face was not hers anymore. But it didn’t exactly look like her donor as well. For the rest of her life she will have to take powerful anti-rejection drugs, becoming a lifelong case study of medical research.

Katie, just after the surgery
Before and after accident, After transplant








Katie wants to attend college and look for a carrier in counseling. She can be considered as a living proof for medical advancement. But moreover she is an icon to resemble the second chances we gain in life.

Story and Image credits: http://www.nationalgeographic.com