Published: Wed, August 15, 2018

She Shot Off Her Face. Now She Has a New One

She Shot Off Her Face. Now She Has a New One

Katie Stubblefield was 18 when she shot herself with a rifle in her MS home.

Plastic surgeon Dr Brian Gastman, the first clinic doctor to see Katie and the man who would go on to lead her transplant procedure, recalled to NatGeo that he was initially only concerned with stabilizing Katie, and he anxious that even if that went to plan, there wouldn't be enough tissue available for corrective surgeries due to her small size.

Her story, "The Story of a Face", is the cover story of National Geographic's September issue.

There are still months of slow healing and painful therapy ahead. A year after the surgery, however, she's ready to go back out into the world.

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

In 2017, it was decided that Stubblefield would undergo a face transplant.

"I had no clue what a face transplant was", Katie said. The world's first successful full face transplant was conducted at Vall d'Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, in 2010.

Katie's new face was donated by the family of Adrea Schneider, a 31-year-old mother-of-one who who died as the result of a drug overdose.

"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. "Forget the face transplant; we're talking about just being alive". She said, "They weren't going to wait for me, and why should they?"

He noted that when he first saw Katie's injury, he anxious that she might not live. "I felt disgusting", Katie said in the interview.

The operation was the Cleveland Clinic's third face transplant and the 40 in the world.

"I'm definitely taking many, many daily steps". A grant from the US Department of Defense, through the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, covered Katie's transplant, according to National Geographic.

While Katie's medical care team hopes that her surgery can advance the field of face transplantation, there are many other hopes for her future.

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

Stubblefield will remain a lifelong subject in the study of a still experimental procedure.

Katie now plans to attend college soon and pursue a career in counseling and motivational speaking. She was raised by her grandmother, Sandra Bennington, since she was four-years-old and adopted by her at the age of 11. "She can try to save other young lives".

During the surgery, Stubblefield received a new nose, lips, palate, eyelids, and jaw, as well as a new facial cover. 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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