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

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Three years later, she became the youngest person to receive a face transplant in United States history.

It's no secret why National Geographic would choose to have Katie Stubblefield, 21, on the cover of their latest issue.

As Katie Stubblefield brushed her fingers across her face, she could feel the wound. She survived, but the injury resulted in the loss of her face.

Ms Stubblefield does not remember the day she tried to kill her self in March 2014 or much of the months which followed. "I'm definitely taking many, many daily steps", she told CNN.

Before her suicide attempt, as Stubblefield told writer Joanna Connors, she never saw herself as lovely. "Forget the face transplant; we're talking about just being alive", one of her doctors, Brian Gastman, told National Geographic.

"We think her story is one of the most important stories that we will do this year". The transplant, performed a year ago, aims to restore Katie's face structure and functions - such as chewing, breathing and swallowing - which were lost in a severe gunshot injury, the haunting outcome of a suicide attempt as a teenager.

Now 22, Stubblefield admits that when she was first told about a face transplant, she had no idea the procedure even existed. "Now I want to help other people" she said.

"I felt so guilty that I had put my family through such pain". It followed a tumultuous year in which, Ms Stubblefield had multiple gastrointestinal surgeries and her mother was sacked from the small Christian school she attended.

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

Katie's doctors chose to give her a full transplant instead of a partial one because, with the donor's face being wider and darker, transplanting 100 percent of it would look better.

The extensive 31-hour procedure took a team of 11 surgeons and multiple specialists, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which carried out the transplant.

It was after a wait for nearly a year of being on the transplant list, that Katie found her match. In the time since receiving her full-face transplant - joining the ranks of fewer than 25 such recipients worldwide - at the Cleveland Clinic, Katie has undergone three major revision surgeries and has been hard at work with physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

As for where Katie fits in, "only 40 people in the world have ever had a face transplant, and we believe that she is the 39th person", said Susan Goldberg, editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine.

Now, Katie hopes to use her historic surgery to raise awareness about the lasting harms of suicide and the precious value of life. Permission required for reproduction.

'We would do that for anybody, but many of us are parents ourselves and we saw what her own parents were going through'. 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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