21-year-old woman becomes youngest in USA to receive face transplant

21-year-old woman becomes youngest in USA to receive face transplant

Ms Schneider had a hard life, born with drugs in her system to a drug addicted mother who died when she was only 13-years-old. In 2014, during her senior year of high school, her world upended. A few months later, she and her boyfriend broke up.

At 18, she tried to kill herself with a gun and was left with serious injuries. In 2008, American woman Connie Culp became the first United States recipient of a face transplant at the same clinic.

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.

During the years between Stubblefield's suicide attempt and her groundbreaking face transplant, National Geographic photographer Maggie Steber followed Stubblefield around for a full two and a half years, capturing her day-to-day life.

Five weeks after the incident, Stubblefield was brought to Cleveland Clinic. Her parents are looking into eye transplants for her next, so her eyesight can be restored. "Her brain was basically exposed, and I mean, we're talking seizures and infections and all kinds of problems". But this final stop was where she would receive her full face transplant!

However, the skin grafts kept falling off, and doctors soon suggested the idea of a "face transplant" to her parents.

Now 22, she has shared her story and incredible photos of her transplant journey with National Geographic. Afterward, "I felt so guilty that I had put my family through such pain".

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"I am able to touch my face now, and it feels awesome", Ms Stubblefield told the NY Post.

The world's first face transplant was performed in France in 2005.

Ms Stubblefield waited for a transplant for over a year, before a matching donor was found. 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. Get all the details on her groundbreaking surgery here.

There is the chance of numerous complications, including that her body will reject the new face and it will have to be removed.

Ms Stubblefield now takes medication to reduce the risk of organ rejection, and will do so for the rest of her life. She hopes to go to college and eventually find a career in counselling and motivational speaking. "That's number one, but beyond that, I'd like her to have some level of normalcy".

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

Those struggling with suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, which is available 24 hours a day, or be connected with the Crisis Text Line by texting "HOME" to 741741 for free 24/7 support.

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