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CLEVELAND (CBS Local) – A young woman who attempted suicide has been given a new lease on life one year after becoming the youngest person to undergo a face transplant in the U.S.
Katie Stubblefield was 18 when she shot herself with a rifle in her Mississippi home. The gunshot destroyed the teen’s face and required extensive surgery to save her life.
After three years of reconstructive surgery and rehab, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic performed a total face transplant on the 21-year-old in 2017 – making her the youngest recipient in the country. “There was an older trauma surgeon who basically told us, ‘It’s the worst wound that I’ve ever seen of its kind,’ and he said, ‘The only thing I can think of that would really give her functional life again is a face transplant,'” Stubblefield’s father, Robb said, via CNN.
“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.
Dr. Brian Gastman, a plastic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, said Katie received the “ultimate second chance.”
“My first wish for Katie is to be happy,” Gastman said. “That’s number one, but beyond that, I’d like her to have some level of normalcy.”
More than a year removed from the historic surgery, Katie’s emotional journey is being documented in National Geographic’s September issue, entitled “The Story Of A Face.” Stubblefield is reportedly hoping her successful procedure will raise awareness about the lasting harm of suicide and promotes suicide prevention efforts.
“I’m definitely taking many, many daily steps,” Katie said about her journey. “Life is precious, and life is beautiful.”