Girl Gets A Second Chance At Life After Having A Face Transplant

Katie Stubblefield lives with daily reminders of a failed suicide attempt when she was just a teen.  The now 21 year old is the youngest person to receive a face transplant. The transplant, performed last year, aims to restore Katie’s face structure and functions — such as chewing, breathing and swallowing.

Now, Katie hopes that this surgery not only corrects her disfigurement but will also correct the views surrounding suicide and the value of life.

Katie doesn’t remember that fateful day.

“There was an older trauma surgeon who basically told us, ‘It’s the worst wound that I’ve ever seen of its kind,’ and he said, ‘The only thing I can think of that would really give her functional life again is a face transplant,’ ” Robb said.

“I was standing there thinking, ‘What do you mean, a face transfer? What do you do?’ ”

“I had no clue what a face transplant was,” Katie said. “When my parents helped explain everything to me, I was very excited to get a face again and to have function again.”

“We think her story is one of the most important stories that we will do this year,” Goldberg said of the magazine. “We thought it was just such a moving and inspiring story that is about everything from human journey to breakthrough medicine and science.”

The Surgery

“We made a plate designed for the combination of Katie and her sister’s jaw, and that’s what we used to make Katie’s jaw before we did the transplant,” Gastman said.

March 2016, Katie was added to a waiting list for a face transplant. Fourteen months later, a donor was found: Adrea Schneider, a 31-year-old woman who died of a drug overdose.  Before the procedure began, Katie had to undergo extensive psychological evaluation.

She was cleared to receive her new face, and on May 4th, 2017 the 31-hour surgery began.  There were 11 surgeons, several other specialists on the team.

“I am able to touch my face now, and it feels amazing,” said Katie, who still has some difficulty speaking clearly.

“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. Then when you receive a transplant, you’re so thankful.”

“Life is precious, and life is beautiful,” she said.

Katie plans to attend college, followed by a career in counseling and motivational speaking.

Globally, close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is about one person every 40 seconds, bring awareness by sharing this story with friends and family.

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