Face transplant offers suicide survivor a ‘second likelihood’


Her imaginative and prescient is significantly impaired as a consequence of her harm, however touching her face allowed her to really feel what her docs had been working across the clock to deal with. She may really feel the place her face was swollen. She may really feel the parts that had been lacking.

That was earlier than Katie, at 21, turned the youngest individual in the US to obtain a face transplant. The transplant, carried out final yr, goals to revive Katie’s face construction and capabilities — equivalent to chewing, respiratory and swallowing — which had been misplaced in a extreme gunshot harm, the haunting final result of a suicide try as an adolescent.

Now, Katie hopes to make use of her historic surgical procedure to lift consciousness in regards to the lasting harms of suicide and the valuable worth of life.

‘I had no clue what a face transplant was’

Within the days previous to Katie’s suicide try, she confronted a lot of emotional hurdles.

She underwent surgical procedure for power gastrointestinal issues, and she or he confronted betrayal in a private relationship. Round that point, Katie’s mom, Alesia, was abruptly fired from a instructing job at Katie’s college as a result of Alesia “questioned a number of selections that had been made missing integrity,” Katie’s father, Robb, advised CNN.

On March 25, 2014, when Katie was 18, her older brother, Robert Stubblefield, heard the gunfire and located her after she harmed herself in a toilet at his residence in Mississippi.

He was devastated.

Katie would not keep in mind that tragic day when she misplaced her face. She has stated that she would not keep in mind a lot of that yr — together with being hospitalized in Oxford, Mississippi; being flown to a different hospital in Memphis, Tennessee; after which being transferred to Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, the place she would endure her face transplantation three years later.

It was in Memphis the place Katie’s dad and mom, Robb and Alesia, heard the time period “face transplant” for the primary time.

“There was an older trauma surgeon who principally advised us, ‘It is the worst wound that I’ve ever seen of its variety,’ and he stated, ‘The one factor I can consider that may actually give her purposeful life once more is a face transplant,’ ” Robb stated.

“I used to be standing there pondering, ‘What do you imply, a face switch? What do you do?’ “

When Katie was later advised in regards to the doable process, she stated, she was equally shocked.

“I had no clue what a face transplant was,” Katie stated. “When my dad and mom helped clarify every part to me, I used to be very excited to get a face once more and to have operate once more.”

At left, Katie Stubblefield at 17, eight months before attempting suicide. At right, Katie at 22, one year and one month after her surgery.
Full and partial face transplants are medical procedures that contain changing all or elements of an individual’s face with donated tissue, together with pores and skin, bone, nerves and blood vessels from a deceased donor.
Katie’s process concerned transplanting the scalp, brow, higher and decrease eyelids, eye sockets, nostril, higher cheeks, higher jaw and half of decrease jaw, higher enamel, decrease enamel, partial facial nerves, muscle mass and pores and skin — successfully changing her full facial tissue, in line with Cleveland Clinic.
Just like Katie, the first recipient of a face transplant in the US was a lady who survived a gunshot wound to the top. That affected person, Connie Culp, underwent a 22-hour transplant surgical procedure at Cleveland Clinic and debuted her new face in 2009.
That was a near-total face transplant. The world’s first successful full face transplant was carried out at Vall d’Hebron College Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, in 2010.
As for the place Katie suits in, “solely 40 folks on this planet have ever had a face transplant, and we consider that she is the 39th individual,” stated Susan Goldberg, editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine.

“We predict her story is among the most essential tales that we’ll do that yr,” Goldberg stated of the journal. “We thought it was simply such a transferring and galvanizing story that’s about every part from human journey to breakthrough drugs and science.”

‘You are taking it without any consideration, the totally different parts of our faces’

Earlier than Katie’s face transplantation, surgeons at Cleveland Clinic used 3D printing to assist reconstruct about 90% of her decrease jaw, stated Dr. Brian Gastman, a plastic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic who led Katie’s surgical procedure and oversaw her care.

The surgical group used CT scans of the jaw of Katie’s older sister, Olivia McCay, to 3D-print a mannequin template for the reconstruction.

“We made a plate designed for the mix of Katie and her sister’s jaw, and that is what we used to make Katie’s jaw earlier than we did the transplant,” Gastman stated.

He famous that when he first noticed Katie’s harm, he anxious that she may not reside.

A surgical resident carefully cradles Katie's head to keep it still as she's situated in the intensive care unit after the 31-hour procedureconcluded. To protect her eyes, her eyelids were sutured shut. With the transplant complete, Katie would still require additional operations and many months of rehabilitation.

In March 2016, Katie was positioned on the ready record for a face transplant. Fourteen months later, a donor was discovered: Adrea Schneider, a 31-year-old girl who died of a drug overdose, Nationwide Geographic reported. Earlier than the process, Katie underwent in depth psychological analysis as a face transplant candidate and suicide survivor.

After she was cleared to obtain her new face, the 31-hour surgical procedure started Could 4, 2017. It concerned 11 surgeons, a number of different specialists and digital actuality. The surgical procedure was accomplished the subsequent day.

“I’m able to contact my face now, and it feels wonderful,” stated Katie, who nonetheless has some problem talking clearly.

Her father, Robb, translated a few of her sentiments: “You are taking it without any consideration, the totally different parts of our faces — the bone, the tissue, the muscle, every part — however when it is gone, you acknowledge the massive want. Then whenever you obtain a transplant, you are so grateful.”

Nine months and 22 days before Katie's face transplant, at Cleveland's Tudor Arms Hotel, Katie and her father sing "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?" as they share a dance. "Before this, I never spent so much time with my parents," said Katie, who credits their love and devotion with helping to save her life.
Katie was discharged from Cleveland Clinic on August 1, 2017. She takes immunosuppressive medication to cut back her threat of transplant rejection, which happens when a transplant recipient’s immune system assaults the transplanted organ or tissue. She’s going to proceed to take the remedy for the remainder of her life.

Katie additionally continues bodily and occupational remedy, works with a speech therapist and takes Braille classes.

“I am undoubtedly taking many, many each day steps,” Katie stated of her rehab progress, including that her household has been an enormous assist in her restoration and that her religion has stored her sturdy.

“Life is treasured, and life is gorgeous,” she stated.

Face transplantation is taken into account experimental, and insurance coverage firms, Medicare and Medicaid do not cowl it. A grant from the US Division of Protection, by means of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, coated Katie’s transplant, in line with Nationwide Geographic. The institute works to develop superior remedy choices — together with face transplantation — for severely wounded servicemen and -women.

“I keep in mind Dr. Gastman talked about to me, he stated principally that Katie was sort of the quintessential potential candidate for a face transplant. One, due to the kind of wound that she suffered, but in addition she is in that age bracket of so many troopers,” Robb stated. “She’s in that late-teen to early 20s, the place so many younger troopers are being wounded and injured.”

Whereas Katie’s medical care group hopes that her surgical procedure can advance the sector of face transplantation, there are lots of different hopes for her future.

Katie plans to attend school on-line quickly, presumably adopted by a profession in counseling and motivational talking. She hopes to lift consciousness about suicide and suicide prevention.

“My first want for Katie is to be pleased,” Gastman stated.

“That is primary, however past that, I would like her to have some stage of normalcy,” he stated. “Then, she will do all that and develop into a spokeswoman for therefore many elements — for the best way to be sturdy within the face of adversity and to not make a singular resolution dictate who you’re. Additional, alternatively, how a lot a singular rash resolution made by so many younger folks at present may negatively change your entire life.”

He stated Katie “had the last word second likelihood.”

Suicide consciousness stays vital, stated Katie’s mom, Alesia.

Globally, near 800,000 folks die as a consequence of suicide yearly, which is about one individual each 40 seconds, in line with the World Health Organization.
Within the US, suicide rates significantly climbed in 44 states from 1999 by means of 2016, in line with a report revealed in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016, and greater than half of people that died by suicide didn’t have a recognized psychological well being situation.
In 2016, weapons had been the most typical technique utilized in suicide deaths within the US, accounting for 22,963 — nearly half of all — suicide deaths, in line with the National Institute of Mental Health.

Amongst younger folks, “I feel we do a reasonably respectable job of training them about intercourse and about ingesting and driving,” however training round suicide prevention is missing, Alesia stated.

“I can actually inform you, for Katie, we don’t consider for one second that she wished to die,” Alesia stated. “However we do consider she hit that low the place she undoubtedly tried and thought of it, and for a second — 20 seconds or much less — children could make these selections.”

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