Published: Fri, August 17, 2018
Medical | By Alyssa Little

21-year-old receives historic face transplant

21-year-old receives historic face transplant

"You take it for granted, the different components of our faces - the bone, the tissue, the muscle, everything - but when it's gone, you recognize the big need", her father, Robb Stubblefield, added.

Katie is the 40 known person in the world to receive a new face, according to National Geographic.

Steber said of the experience, "They would share their deepest thoughts with me".

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

'Life is precious and life is handsome, ' she said. The transplant, performed a year ago, aims to restore Katie's face structure and functions - such as chewing, breathing and swallowing - which were lost in a severe gunshot injury, the haunting outcome of a suicide attempt as a teenager.

"So many people have helped me; now I want to help other people", she said.

"We think her story is one of the most important stories that we will do this year".

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Katie Stubblefield is the youngest person to ever receive a face transplant!

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.

The idea of putting the young woman through this surgery came after her parents talked to a surgeon in Memphis, Tennessee, where she was flown for treatment after the suicide attempt. "Forget the face transplant; we're talking about just being alive".

She is now using her story of survival to raise awareness.

"I felt so guilty that I had put my family through such pain".

In her senior year, she had her appendix and her gallbladder taken out as she continued to battle with digestive issues.

That was a near-total face transplant. "I felt awful", Katie said in the interview.

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After that a surgeon eventually suggested the family to consider a face transplant, after which the process of finding a donor started.

"Knowing this patient now has the opportunity to live a functional life because of her face transplant is the greatest reward", Dr. Gastman, said in a statement.

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

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.

To prepare for the surgery, doctors used 3D printing to assist with reconstructing about 90 per cent of her jaw, using her older sister Olivia McCay as a model.

Katie now hopes to attend college and have a family and career one day, the page added.

Stubblefield will remain a lifelong subject in the study of a still experimental procedure. "She can try to save other young lives". "With a new nose, lips, palate, eyelids and jaw, she now has the full opportunity to re-integrate into society and have a future just like any other young adult".

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