Three years after her face was completely deformed, Katie Stubblefield has become the youngest person in the U.S. ever to receive a successful face transplant. Katie’s life changed in 2014, when she was a high school senior in Oxford, Mississippi, but she was severely depressed. Her family had moved many times in the past several years, and she was recovering from surgeries to remove her appendix and gallbladder.
In March of 2014, she went through a painful breakup and attempted suicide, shooting herself in the face with a rifle. But she survived. She suffered no brain damage, but her face was severely deformed.
She underwent several facial reconstruction surgeries, but they didn’t include Katie’s quality of life. Finally, with doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, she opted to undergo in 2017 a full facial transplant. The landmark surgery, and Katie’s recovery period, is now part of a new documentary short by National Geographic.
Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic planned the surgery for a year using 3D models, and waiting for a suitable donor. In May 2017, one arrived. 31-year-old Adrea Schneider had just passed away.
She was an organ donor, and her grandmother made the decision to allow doctors to transplant her face onto Katie’s. The procedure took over 30 hours, and were some tense moments when complications arose, and Katie’s parents had to decide whether to stick with just the nose, throat and eyes, or proceed with the full face transplant.
Ultimately, doctors were able to replace 100% of her facial tissue, and a long recovery process made her the youngest U.S. patient ever to receive a successful transplant, and Katie says it’s made a world of difference.
Katie knows she’ll never live a “normal” life. Not after what she’s been through. That’s why she’s planning to dedicate the future to suicide prevention, educating teenagers about emotional breakups, social media, and how to open up to their parents.
The link to the full Nat Geo documentary is in the description, and it’s really worth watching the whole thing if you’ve got 20 minutes. It really shows how a rash decision you make while depressed can alter the course of your entire life.
It’s also a reminder to those who live without mental illness that you won’t always know what someone is going through. That someone who seems online that they have an exciting, fulfilling life, might be struggling.
What about Katie’s story inspires you? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @WhatsTrending. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.