WARNING – DISTRESSING CONTENT A 21-year-old woman has become the youngest person in the United States to receive a face transplant after a suicide attempt three years earlier.
Katie Stubblefield, underwent the 31-hour face transplant surgery on May 4, 2017, with 11 surgeons from Ohio’s renowned Cleveland Clinic.
On March 25, 2014 Ms Stubblefield badly injured her face during a suicide attempt. It followed a tumultuous year in which, Ms Stubblefield had multiple gastrointestinal surgeries and her mother was fired from the small Christian school she attended.
The final straw came when she discovered that her boyfriend was texting another girl and they subsequently ended their relationship.
Following the attempt, part of her forehead, nose and sinuses, her mouth except for the corners of her lips and much of her jaw bones were gone, according to National Geographic.
Ms Stubblefield waited for a transplant for over a year, before a matching donor was found.
Adrea Schneider, was a 31-year-old woman and organ donor who died three days earlier after failing to recover from a drug overdose.
Ms Schneider had a difficult life, born with drugs in her system to a drug addicted mother who died when she was only 13-years-old. She was raised by her grandmother, Sandra Bennington, since she was four-years-old and adopted by her at the age of 11.
Ms Bennington, made the emotional choice to donate her grand daughter’s face after meeting with Ms Stubblefield and her parents.
A decade of face transplants at Cleveland Clinic
The operation was the Cleveland Clinic’s third face transplant and the 40th in the world. In 2008, American woman Connie Culp became the first United States recipient of a face transplant at the same clinic.
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.
The surgery aimed to improve Ms Stubblefield’s ability to eat, speak and breathe through the nose.
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“I am able to touch my face now, and it feels amazing,” Ms Stubblefield told the NY Post.
“I’m definitely taking many, many daily steps.”
Ms Stubblefield aims to study counselling and become a motivational speaker to raise awareness about suicide prevention.
“So many people have helped me. Now I want to help other people,” she said.
If you are concerned about the mental health of yourself or a loved one, seek support and information by calling Lifeline 13 11 14, Mensline 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline 1800 551 800