Youngest American Woman To Receive Full Face Transplant, One Year Post-Op

Katie Stubblefield

Katie Stubblefield

She's featured on the cover of National Geographic's September issue. The Mississippi native has one of the most incredible stories we've ever heard!

Katie Stubblefield says she doesn't remember much about the day in March 2014 when she shot herself with a.308-caliber hunting rifle in a bathroom of her MS home. In 2008, American woman Connie Culp became the first United States recipient of a face transplant at the same clinic.

Before her full transplant, she went through 22 different surgeries to try and reconstruct her face. Her life was saved in Memphis and she was transferred to the Cleveland Clinic in OH, where 15 specialists "patched her face" (Connors explains how). The only problem? This posed a greater risk of Katie's body rejecting the new face.

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. Forget the face transplant; we're talking about just being alive".

Before all of this could be done, Katie had a long journey of hospital visits.

Though she is literally using Schneider's face, Stubblefield will reportedly not look like her, since the face will mold to her bone structure as it heals. Though she tried to live a normal life, people would stare and whisper to each other about her face.

"I never thought of doing that ever before, and so on hearing about it, I just didn't know how to handle it", she told National Geographic.

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

Stubblefield has said that she wants to go to school now to become a counselor, and to work with other suicide survivors in the future. After a barrage of hardships - chronic gastrointestinal issues, the loss of her mother's job, a painful breakup - Stubblefield in March 2014 placed her brother's.308-caliber rifle beneath her chin and fired, according to the magazine. She also has to continue with physical and occupational therapy for the time being.

"When my parents helped explain everything to me, I was very excited to get a face again and to have function again", she said.

When Katie shot herself, she was found by her older brother Robert.

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

"My first wish for Katie is to be happy", Gastman said.

The operation was funded by the US Department of Defense as part of its research into "regenerative medicine" for the treatment of wounded soldiers.

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

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