The Remarkable Saga of a Young Woman's Face Transplant


"I never thought of doing that ever before, and so on hearing about it, I just didn't know how to handle it", she told National Geographic. 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.

Although she survived, she had lost her forehead, nose and sinuses.

Steber said of the experience, "They would share their deepest thoughts with me".

Katie Stubblefield at Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland, Ohio. She was transferred to the Cleveland Clinic with the hopes of an eventual face transplant. During the interview, Katie said that she never saw herself as attractive and after a barrage of hardships - chronic gastrointestinal issues, the loss of her mother's job and a painful breakup - she wanted to end her life.

Katie Stubblefield lost most of her face in a failed suicide attempt at the age of 18, and now at 22-years-old, she's been given a second-chance at life.

The idea of putting the young woman through this surgery came after her parents talked to a surgeon in Memphis, Tennessee, where she was flown for treatment after the suicide attempt.

Before Ms Stubblefield's transplant, surgeons used 3D printing to help reconstruct about 90 per cent of her lower jaw, using her older sister, Olivia McCay, as a model template, said Dr Brian Gastman, a plastic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic who led the surgery.

"That's number one, but beyond that, I'd like her to have some level of normalcy", he said. "Forget the face transplant; we're talking about just being alive".

Ms Stubblefield's older brother, Robert, was the one who found her shot, covered in blood.

In her senior year, she had her appendix and her gallbladder taken out as she continued to battle with digestive issues.

In 2017, it was decided that Stubblefield would undergo a face transplant.

After being told about the possible solution, Katie Stubblefield said she was just as amazed.

On one of her daily walks in the hospital, Katie sings as she exercises with physio Becky Vano (at left) and physio student Nicole Bliss.

"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.

"So many people have helped me".

The surgery was performed at the Cleveland Clinic in OH in May and paid for by the US Department of Defence through the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

While Katie's medical care team hopes that her surgery can advance the field of face transplantation, there are many other hopes for her future.

Stubblefield will remain a lifelong subject in the study of a still experimental procedure.

Katie now hopes to attend college and have a family and career one day, the page added.

The young girl's journey in search of a functional face started in March 2016 when she was put on a waiting list.