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

17 August 2018

Stubblefield was the youngest person to have an entire face transplant surgery in America, making her story a special one.

Now, a National Geographic documentary, "Katie's Face", follows her step by step as she received face transplant in an extraordinary 31 hours of delicate surgery at the Cleveland Clinic previous year when she was 21. She also received a forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, a nose, a mouth, lips, cheeks, an upper jaw, part of a lower jaw, teeth and facial muscles.

"I am able to touch my face now, and it feels wonderful", she said.

Five weeks after the incident, Stubblefield was brought to Cleveland Clinic. 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.

"I had no clue what a face transplant was", she said. During the interview, Katie said that she never saw herself as lovely and after a barrage of hardships - chronic gastrointestinal issues, the loss of her mother's job and a painful breakup - she wanted to end her life. "Her brain was basically exposed, and I mean, we're talking seizures and infections and all kinds of problems". Three years later, she became the youngest person to receive a face transplant in United States history.

Before Katie's face transplantation, surgeons at Cleveland Clinic used 3D printing to help reconstruct about 90% of her lower jaw, said Dr. Brian Gastman, a plastic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic who led Katie's surgery and oversaw her care.

"I felt so guilty that I had put my family through such pain". She also has to continue with physical and occupational therapy for the time being.

She hopes to speak to teenagers about suicide prevention, echoing what she told CNN: "Life is precious, and life is attractive".

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That includes two days worth of practices against the Chicago Bears to go with Saturday night's game against Chicago. They got me in the right protections and the guys with the ball in their hands made plays, " Kelly said.

That was a near-total face transplant.

"My first wish for Katie is to be happy", Gastman said.

A surgeon eventually suggested the family consider a face transplant - a procedure they'd never heard of. They took Katie to eat at restaurants despite the looks and comments she'd receive, spent time with her outside and celebrated her birthday.

The surgery was performed at the Cleveland Clinic in OH in May and paid for by the US Department of Defence through the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Get all the details on her groundbreaking surgery here.

Katie now hopes to attend college and have a family and career one day, the page added.

Ms Stubblefield aims to study counselling and become a motivational speaker to raise awareness about suicide prevention. "Further, on the other hand, how much a singular rash decision made by so many young people today could negatively change your whole life".

"I'm definitely taking many, many daily steps", Katie said of her rehab progress, adding that her family has been a big help in her recovery and that her faith has kept her strong.

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