Culture&Arts

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

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

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

She was taken to hospital and endured two years worth of operations, undergoing several procedures to fix her bone structure, including her nose, nasal passage and her jaw before receiving her new face from donor Adrea Schneider, 31, who died after a drug overdose.

After 22 surgeries to reconstruct her face, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic performed the full face transplant, effectively replacing 100% of her face, National Geographic said.

Katie Stubblefield, now 22, became the youngest face transplant recipient in USA history a year ago. Katie Stubblefield, 17, 8 months before attempting suicide.

The GoFundMe page aims to raise US$50,000 to help pay for Katie and her family's needs for the coming year. "When my parents helped explain everything to me, I was very excited to get a face again and to have function again".

The extensive 31-hour procedure took a team of 11 surgeons and multiple specialists, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which carried out the transplant.

Photographer Maggie Steber, who spent two-and-a-half years capturing Katie and her family on camera, said: 'They are warriors.

"That's number one, but beyond that, I'd like her to have some level of normalcy", he said.

An in-depth look at the journey leading up to Katie's face transplant, as well as her long road to recovery, is featured in National Geographic's September issue and in a new documentary.




Stubblefield has said that she wants to go to school now to become a counselor, and to work with other suicide survivors in the future.

"I'm definitely taking many, many daily steps", she told CNN. But even though she made more than a dozen visits before this, her parents tried to make sure her life was as normal as possible when she was out.

The operation was funded by the US Department of Defense as part of its research into "regenerative medicine" for the treatment of wounded soldiers. The world's first successful full face transplant was conducted at Vall d'Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, in 2010.

But she intends to pick up where she left off, she told National Geographic, going to college and perhaps pursuing a career in counseling. "Then, she can do all that and become a spokeswoman for so many aspects - for how to be strong in the face of adversity and not to make a singular decision dictate who you are". Now she's sharing her story with the world.

"So many people have helped me".

During the surgery, Stubblefield received a new nose, lips, palate, eyelids, and jaw, as well as a new facial cover.

"They're like eagles who are protecting a young bird".

"I can honestly tell you, for Katie, we do not believe for one moment that she wanted to die", Alesia said.