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

Simon Moss
August 17, 2018

Unfortunately, her face suffered severe damage during the failed attempt, which led to her loosing her face. She could feel where her face was swollen.

At 21, Katie became the youngest person in the United States to have a face transplant.

The transplant, which was performed by 11 surgeons, aimed to restore Stubblefield's face and functions such as chewing, breathing and swallowing.

The youngest person to ever receive a full-face transplant, the MS native has shared her unbelievable story for National Geographic's September issue. Now she's sharing her story with the world, from almost dying to an extraordinary facial surgery that has given her a new start. Around that time, Katie's mother, Alesia, was abruptly fired from a teaching job at Katie's school because Alesia "questioned several decisions that were made lacking integrity", Katie's father, Robb, told CNN.

Although she attempted to commit suicide when she was 18 years old, Katie has no memory of this moment or of most of the year that followed as she was moved from a MS hospital to one in Tennessee, and another in Cleveland, Ohio.

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

Dr Brian Gastman, one of the surgeons who operated on Katie, said: "Her whole story made our team come together much faster, and we sort of ran toward her to take care of her".

Katie with her parents.

Ms Stubblefield told National Geographic that she has no memory of her suicide attempt or the many surgeries to mend her face - her parents were the ones to tell her.

"I was standing there thinking, 'What do you mean, a face transfer?"

"I had no clue what a face transplant was", Katie said. "Now I want to help other people", she said.

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The operation lasted 31-hours but the net result was a 100 percent replacement of Stubblefield's face.

Similar to Katie, the first recipient of a face transplant in the United States was a woman who survived a gunshot wound to the head.

After a 31-hour procedure, Katie Stubblefield emerged from an operation room a year ago with a new face and new possibilities.

That was a near-total face transplant.

National Geographic documented the journey in photographs. Her story could push the gun control conversation forward as many activists see this as another example of the gun violence epidemic the country is going through. "We thought it was just such a moving and inspiring story that is about everything from human journey to breakthrough medicine and science". "Forget the face transplant; we're talking about just being alive".

In March 2016, Katie was placed on the waiting list for a face transplant.

Adrea Schneider, was a 31-year-old woman and organ donor who died three days earlier after failing to recover from a drug overdose. The surgery was completed the next day.

"I'm definitely taking many, many daily steps", Katie told CNN in an interview published on Wednesday. Her mouth was also gone except for the corners of her lips and bones that make up the jaws and front of her face were blown off too.

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Katie was discharged from Cleveland Clinic on August 1, 2017.

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