Katie Stubblefield had a rough go of it in high school. Her family frequently relocated, she had surgery to remove both her gallbladder and appendix, and her boyfriend broke up with her shortly thereafter.
At 18 years old, Katie put a hunting rifle under her chin and pulled the trigger. She survived the suicide attempt, but she lost her face in the process.
Parts of her nose, forehead, and sinuses were gone. All that remained of her mouth were the corners. Her brain was “basically exposed,” according to one of the first doctors who saw her.
Katie doesn’t remember the suicide attempt. “I never thought of doing that ever before, and so on hearing about it, I just didn’t know how to handle it. I felt so guilty that I had put my family through such pain. I felt horrible.”
Eventually it was decided that Katie would receive a face transplant, the youngest person ever to do so in the United States. Surgeries like this are still experimental — only 40 have been attempted worldwide — but so far, it looks like Katie’s operation has been a success.
“Knowing this patient now has the opportunity to live a functional life because of her face transplant is the greatest reward,” says one of the doctor’s involved with the operation. There’s still a chance that her body will reject the new face, but for now, Katie’s looking forward to pursuing a career in counseling, so she can help other people who might feel like she once felt.
Footage provided by WJW Cleveland
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