The Remarkable Saga of a Young Woman's Face Transplant

Katie Stubblefield survived a gunshot to face at age 18. Now she's the youngest person to receive a complete face transplant in U.S. history

Her journey was covered in the September issue of National Geographic magazine's cover story, which documents her journey of struggle, humanity and hope.

Katie Stubblefield, 21, is the youngest face transplant recipient in USA history, as featured on the cover of National Geographic's September issue.

Stubblefield is using her story of survival to raise awareness.

At 18, she tried to kill her self with a gun and was left with serious injuries. She has said that she doesn't remember much of that year - including being hospitalized in Oxford, Mississippi; being flown to another hospital in Memphis, Tennessee; and then being transferred to Cleveland Clinic in OH, where she would undergo her face transplantation three years later. She will need to take intensive regimens of immunosuppressant medications for the rest of her life, or until a breakthrough in anti-rejection science is made.

But after 22 operations and her final face transplant she has made a decision to spread her message to help others suffering with suicidal thoughts.

He said: "Her brain was basically exposed, and I mean, we're talking seizures and infections and all kinds of problems".

The face transplant (pictured) took place in 2017 at the Cleveland Clinic, the same clinic that performed the United States' first face transplant on Connie Culp in 2008.

Stubblefield said of the idea when it was first suggested, "I had no clue what a face transplant was". "So many people have helped me; now I want to help other people", she told the magazine.

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

Her transplant was the clinic's third face transplant and the 40th known in the world.

Stubblefield finally received a potential face donor from Adrea Schneider, a 31-year-old single mother who died of a drug overdose.

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 - effectively replacing 100 percent of the patient's facial tissue, the Cleveland Clinic said.

The surgery was performed at the Cleveland Clinic by 11 surgeons in OH in May. She hopes to speak to teenagers about suicide and the value of life.

With her new face, Ms Stubblefield now has a future to look forward to.

Katie now plans to attend college soon and pursue a career in counseling and motivational speaking.

Stubblefield doesn't remember the suicide attempt or any of the surgeries that followed to help mend her face. Permission required for reproduction. According to her father, Robb Stubblefield, she had gone through surgery for chronic gastrointestinal problems, dealt with betrayal in a personal relationship, and suffered because her mother was unjustly fired from her teaching job. Almost 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016, and more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.

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