(CNN)– As Katie Stubblefield brushed her fingers throughout her face, she might feel the wound.
Her vision is considerably impaired due to her injury, however touching her face enabled her to feel what her doctors were working around the clock to treat. She could feel where her face was inflamed. She might feel the portions that were missing.
That was prior to Katie, at 21, ended up being the youngest person in the United States to get a face transplant. The transplant, carried out in 2015, aims to restore Katie’s face structure and functions– such as chewing, breathing and swallowing– which were lost in an extreme gunshot injury, the haunting result of a suicide effort as a teenager.
Now, Katie wants to use her historic surgical treatment to raise awareness about the long lasting harms of suicide and the precious worth of life.
She is included on the cover of National Geographic publication’s September concern, which debuted Tuesday, in a post entitled” The Story of a Face”and in National Geographic’s full-length documentary “Katie’s Face.”
‘I had no clue what a face transplant was’
In the days prior to Katie’s suicide attempt, she dealt with a variety of emotional hurdles.
She went through surgery for chronic gastrointestinal problems, and she faced betrayal in an individual relationship. Around that time, Katie’s mother, Alesia, was quickly fired from a mentor task at Katie’s school because Alesia “questioned a number of choices that were made lacking integrity,” Katie’s dad, Robb, told CNN.
On March 25, 2014, when Katie was 18, her older sibling, Robert Stubblefield, heard the gunfire and found her after she damaged herself in a restroom at his house in Mississippi.
He was ravaged.
Katie doesn’t remember that terrible day when she lost her face. She has said that she doesn’t remember much of that year– consisting of being hospitalized in Oxford, Mississippi; being flown to another healthcare facility in Memphis, Tennessee; and after that being transferred to Cleveland Center in Ohio, where she would undergo her face hair transplant three years later on.
It remained in Memphis where Katie’s moms and dads, Robb and Alesia, heard the term “face transplant” for the very first time.
“There was an older injury surgeon who essentially told us, ‘It’s the worst wound that I’ve ever seen of its kind,’ and he said, ‘The only thing I can consider that would really provide her practical life again is a face transplant,'” Robb said.
“I was standing there believing, ‘What do you imply, a face transfer? Exactly what do you do?’ “
When Katie was later outlined the possible procedure, she said, she was equally stunned.
“I had no hint what a face transplant was,” Katie said. “When my moms and dads helped describe whatever to me, I was very thrilled to get a face again and to have function once again.”
Full and partial face transplants are medical treatments that include changing all or parts of an individual’s face with donated tissue, including skin, bone, nerves and blood vessels from a departed donor.
Katie’s treatment involved transplanting the scalp, forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw and half of lower jaw, upper teeth, lower teeth, partial facial nerves, muscles and skin– successfully changing her complete facial tissue, inning accordance with Cleveland Clinic. Much like Katie, the first recipient of a face transplant in the United States was a woman who survived a gunshot wound to the head. That patient, Connie Culp, went through a 22-hour transplant surgery at Cleveland Center and debuted her brand-new face in 2009. That was a near-total face transplant. The world’s very first successful complete face transplant was carried out at Vall d’Hebron University Medical facility in Barcelona, Spain, in 2010. When it comes to where Katie fits in, “only 40 people in
the world have ever had a face transplant, and we believe that she is the 39th person, “stated Susan Goldberg, editor-in-chief of National Geographic publication.
“We think her story is among the most crucial stories that we will do this year,” Goldberg stated of the magazine. “We believed it was just such a moving and inspiring story that is about everything from human journey to advancement medication and science.”
‘You take it for given, the various parts of our faces’
Before Katie’s face transplant, surgeons at Cleveland Clinic utilized 3D printing to assist rebuild about 90% of her lower jaw, said Dr. Brian Gastman, a plastic surgeon at Cleveland Center who led Katie’s surgery and supervise her
care. The surgical team utilized CT scans of the jaw of Katie’s older sister, Olivia McCay, to 3D-print a model design template for the reconstruction.
“We made a plate designed for the mix of Katie and her sibling’s jaw, which’s exactly what we utilized to make Katie’s jaw before we did the transplant,” Gastman said.
He noted that when he initially saw Katie’s injury, he fretted that she might not live.
In March 2016, Katie was placed on the waiting list for a face transplant. Fourteen months later on, a donor was discovered: Adrea Schneider, a 31-year-old female who passed away of a drug overdose, National Geographic reported. Before the procedure, Katie underwent comprehensive mental evaluation as a face transplant prospect and suicide survivor.
After she was cleared to receive her new face, the 31-hour surgery started Might 4, 2017. It involved 11 cosmetic surgeons, numerous other professionals and virtual reality. The surgical treatment was finished the next day.
“I am able to touch my face now, and it feels fantastic,” stated Katie, who still has some problem speaking plainly.
Her dad, Robb, equated a few of her beliefs: “You take it for given, the various elements of our faces– the bone, the tissue, the muscle, whatever– but when it’s gone, you acknowledge the big requirement. Then when you get a transplant, you’re so thankful.”
Katie was discharged from Cleveland Clinic on August 1, 2017. She takes immunosuppressive drugs to minimize her danger of transplant rejection, which occurs when a transplant recipient’s body immune system attacks the transplanted organ or tissue. She will continue to take the medication for the rest of her life.
Katie also continues physical and occupational treatment, works with a speech therapist and takes Braille lessons.
“I’m absolutely taking lots of, numerous day-to-day actions,” Katie stated of her rehab development, including that her family has actually been a huge aid in her recovery which her faith has actually kept her strong.
“Life is precious, and life is beautiful,” she stated.
Face transplantation is considered speculative, and insurance provider, Medicare and Medicaid do not cover it. A grant from the US Department of Defense, through the Army Institute of Regenerative Medication, covered Katie’s transplant, according to National Geographic. The institute works to establish innovative treatment alternatives– consisting of face transplant– for significantly injured servicemen and -women.
“I remember Dr. Gastman pointed out to me, he said basically that Katie was kind of the quintessential possible candidate for a face transplant. One, since of the kind of wound that she suffered, however likewise she remains in that age bracket of numerous soldiers,” Robb stated. “She’s in that late-teen to early 20s, where a lot of young soldiers are being injured and hurt.”
While Katie’s medical care group hopes that her surgery can advance the field of face hair transplant, there are numerous other wish for her future.
Katie plans to attend college online quickly, possibly followed by a career in therapy and motivational speaking. She intends to raise awareness about suicide and suicide avoidance.
“My first want Katie is to be delighted,” Gastman said.
“That’s number one, but beyond that, I ‘d like her to have some level of normalcy,” he stated. “Then, she can do all that and end up being a spokeswoman for a lot of elements– for how to be strong in the face of difficulty and not to make a singular choice determine who you are. Further, on the other hand, just how much a particular rash decision made by so many youths today might negatively change your entire life.”
He stated Katie “had the ultimate 2nd chance.”
Suicide awareness remains important, stated Katie’s mom, Alesia.
Worldwide, near 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which has to do with a single person every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, suicide rates significantly climbed in 44 states from 1999 through 2016, according to a report released in June by the Centers for Illness Control and Avoidance. Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016, and majority of individuals who passed away by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.
In 2016, weapons were the most typical technique utilized in suicide deaths in the US, representing 22,963– nearly half of all– suicide deaths, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Among youths, “I believe we do a pretty decent task of informing them about sex and about drinking and driving,” however education around suicide prevention is lacking, Alesia said.
“I can honestly inform you, for Katie, we do not think for one moment that she wanted to pass away,” Alesia stated. “But we do think she hit that low where she certainly attempted and considered it, and for a moment– 20 seconds or less– kids can make those choices.”
™ & & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Business. All rights reserved.