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

At left Katie Stubblefield at 17 eight months before attempting suicide. At right Katie at 22 one year and one month after her surgery

At left Katie Stubblefield at 17 eight months before attempting suicide. At right Katie at 22 one year and one month after her surgery

Now she's sharing her story with the world.

As a teen, Stubblefield struggled with health issues, problems in her love life, and major family moves.

Hurt and angry, Stubblefield went over to her brother Robert's place, went to the bathroom and used his gun to shoot herself.

A young woman has been given a second chance at life after undergoing a face transplant.

Now, at 22, she is featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine's September issue, released on Tuesday (Aug 14) in a piece titled "The Story of a Face".

Five weeks after the incident, Stubblefield was brought to Cleveland Clinic. Part of this involved moving her eyes more into alignment by breaking bones and using a distraction device in preparation for her transplant.

Now 22, Stubblefield admits that when she was first told about a face transplant, she had no idea the procedure even existed.

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A surgeon eventually suggested the family consider a face transplant - a procedure they'd never heard of. "I am able to touch my face now, and it feels fantastic", Katie said in the video. Stubblefield also suffered a traumatic brain injury with damage to her frontal lobe, optic nerve, and pituitary gland.

"Steber has said of Stubblefield's parents, "[Katie's parents] were heartbroken and shocked at what happened, but they have embraced it. Afterward, "I felt so guilty that I had put my family through such pain".

When her brother found her, he told the magazine: 'Her face was gone'. Stubblefield is the 40th known person in the world known to receive a new face, according to National Geographic.

It was the first total face transplant for the hospital, which became the first in the U.S.to perform a face transplant of any kind 2008. The recipient, Isabelle Diniore died last year at the age of 49, 11 years after the surgery.

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.

"When my parents helped explain everything to me, I was very excited to get a face again and to have function again", Katie said, via WTKR. "She can try to save other young lives". Connors tracks the surgery in detail, as well as the months that followed. Like all other face transplant recipients, Stubblefield will be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life. "That's number one, but beyond that, I'd like her to have some level of normalcy".

Stubblefield plans on attending online college soon to pursue a career in counseling and motivational speaking, specifically to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention.

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