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21-year-old suicide survivor gets historic face transplant

After a 31-hour-long face transplant surgery, 21-year-old Katie Stubblefield has turned over a new leaf in her life. She underwent 17 surgeries before finally going under the knife for the transformational procedure.

Written by: India TV Buzz Desk, New Delhi [ Published on: August 17, 2018 7:06 IST ]

21-year-old suicide survivor gets historic face transplant

After trying to take her own life with gun, Katie Stubblefield’s face was disfigured at the age of 18. She attempted suicide after a number of emotional trauma she faced as a teenager, reported CNN. The self-inflicted gunshot wound led to Katie losing her nose, mouth and also displaced her eyes, impairing her vision.

After a 31-hour-long face transplant surgery, 21-year-old Katie Stubblefield has turned over a new leaf in her life. She underwent 17 surgeries before finally going under the knife for the transformational procedure.

According to a video posted by Cleveland Clinic, the hospital where Katie was operated upon, 100 percent of her face was transplanted by doctors, to achieve results that cannot be called anything less than miraculous.

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Photo by @maggiesteber. Robb and Alesia Stubblefield hold their 21-year-old daughter Katie in January 2018, eight months and 23 days after Katie received a face transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. Katie shot her face off in a suicide attempt in 2014 at age 18 due to a number of issues that caused her desperate attempt. After numerous surgeries and long hours of psychotherapy to prepare her for eligibility for a face transplant, Katie and her family awaited a miracle: a donor face. One finally came and in May 2017 Katie received a new face in a 31-hour procedure. Throughout this process, her parents stood by her, learning everything they could about face transplants, medical procedures, medicines and numerous kinds of physical therapy. Their lives changed from being teachers to being ardent advocates for their child, accompanying her to daily visits with doctors and physical and speech therapists. They learned how to give her medications through a tube in leading to her stomach. In their most important role, they kept the spirits of Katie and themselves up through their faith in God and faith in Katie's team of surgeons. They became warriors for their daughter in roles that continue even until today. You can read about Katie’s story in the September issue of @natgeo magazine…Story of a Face. Please share the story and the following hotlines and donor websites: National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255. Register on this Organ Donor site: https://on.natgeo.com/2MigvIB Donors can save many lives as it did Katie’s. @viiphotoagency @ljohnphoto #organdonor #suicidehotline #clevelandclinic

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Techniques and technologies such as surgical rehearsal, 3D printing and virtual reality were used as part of the pre-operative planning, said Cleveland Clinic.

Katie's family was extremely supportive throughout this journey. The hospital's video quoted her father Robb as saying, "This journey has been four steps forward, two steps backward, but always progress."

The 21-year-old was put on the waiting list for a face transplant in 2016; over a year later a donor was found, making Katie the 40th face transplant patient in the world. She was operated upon in May 2017, making her the youngest one in the US to undergo the procedure.

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There are some stories that defy telling. They are too complex, emotional, technical. They challenge our morality. They are unwieldy and deep. It is a unique breed of professional who can wrap their arms around such a story and tell it with intelligence and heart. This is both a thank you to @kurtmutchler, Senior Photo Editor for fighting for the tough frames and thank you my Photo Sister @maggiesteber, for sharing your relationship with the Stubblefield family. But also, a critical message to everyone who sees the story of Katie’s new Face—Please ACT— Sign your organ donor card, Listen to your loved ones who may have depression or trauma issues, Volunteer for the local Suicide Hotline, and finally—listen, truly listen to those living through the fragile times of life—our youth and our elders. Photo by @ljohnphoto

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She will continue to be on medication for the rest of her life to minimize the risk of transplant rejection and is also taking physical and occupational therapy, including help from a speech therapist, reported CNN.

Katie's story made it to the National Geographic magazine as she featured on their cover for the September issue. 

(With ANI Inputs)

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