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

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The youngest face transplant patient in the US, now 22, has emerged in a documentary four years after she attempted suicide by firing a high-powered rifle under her chin, USA Today reported on Tuesday.

Katie Stubblefield, 21, is the youngest face transplant recipient in USA history, as featured on the cover of National Geographic's September issue. A year after the surgery, however, she's ready to go back out into the world.

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.

Ms Bennington, made the emotional choice to donate her grand daughter's face after meeting with Ms Stubblefield and her parents.

Besides improving her appearance, the surgery would allow her to speak more clearly, and breathe, chew, and swallow more effectively, the clinic said. Fourteen months later, a donor was found: Adrea Schneider, a 31-year-old woman who died of a drug overdose, National Geographic reported.

The surgery, which took 31 hours, was a success. Though she tried to live a normal life, people would stare and whisper to each other about her face.

She said she was shocked: "I never thought of doing that ever before, and so on hearing about it, I just didn't know how to handle it".

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Her surgery will help doctors advance the field of face transplantation, helping to make the treatment more commonplace and, perhaps, push insurance companies, as well as the government, to assist victims with the cost. "Her brain was basically exposed, and I mean, we're talking seizures and infections and all kinds of problems. I felt terrible", she adds.

Her procedure involved replacing her full facial tissue - transplanting the scalp, forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw and half of lower jaw, upper teeth, lower teeth, partial facial nerves, muscles and skin. After dealing with the effects of her family relocating for the second time in just a couple of years, chronic gastrointestinal troubles led her to have her appendix and gallbladder removed. She will have to take powerful anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life.

"We would do that for anybody, but many of us are parents ourselves and we saw what her own parents were going through". They took Katie to eat at restaurants despite the looks and comments she'd receive, spent time with her outside and celebrated her birthday.

Katie was discharged from Cleveland Clinic on August 1, 2017. A grant from the US Department of Defense, through the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, covered Katie's transplant, according to National Geographic. "I am able to touch my face now, and it feels awesome", Katie said in the video.

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

In total, her organs have saved the lives of seven people.

"They're like eagles who are protecting a young bird".

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