THE FACE LIES on a surgical tray, eyes empty and unseeing, mouth agape, as if exclaiming, “Oh!”
Sixteen hours ago surgeons in Operating Room 19 at the Cleveland Clinic began the delicate work of removing the face from a 31-year-old woman who was declared legally and medically dead three days earlier. Soon they will take it to a 21-year-old woman who has waited more than three years for a new face.
Surgeons, residents, and nurses, suddenly silent, gaze at it in awe as clinic staff, like unusually polite paparazzi, move in with cameras to document it. The face, deprived of blood, grows pale. With each second of detachment, it looks more like a 19th-century death mask.
Frank Papay, a veteran plastic surgeon, picks up the tray, carrying it carefully in his gloved hands, and walks to Operating Room 20, where Katie Stubblefield waits.
Katie will be the youngest person to receive a face transplant in the United States. Her transplant, the clinic’s third and the 40th known in the world, will be one of the most extensive, making her a lifelong subject in the study of this still experimental surgery.
In our State of the Union, we proclaimed we’d bring you weird stories. The weirder the better we said and this one might take the Carvel ice cream cake. I suggest you click on the National Geographic link above and give the story a read when you have some free time (it’ll take you 40 minutes to read, but it’s worth it). People.com does a good job summarizing Katie’s story pre-face surgery:
In 2014, Stubblefield, then 18, attempted suicide after watching her mother Alesia lose her job; finding text messages to another girl on her boyfriend’s phone; and having health issues, including gastrointestinal problems and gallbladder and appendix surgeries.
Stubblefield survived, but her gunshot wound damaged much of her face.
Want to know how stupid I am? I saw the photo above before reading the NG story and thought the photo on the left with Katie smiling was the new face! Geez, I really am an idiot. I assumed I was going to read a story about Hollywood’s new plastic surgery fad that all the actors in their 40s are going under the knife for. What I got instead was a tragic tale of a young babe who saw her life crumbling all around her and rather than pick up the phone to seek help, she picked up a gun…blew her face off…and survived! Omar was wrong. He should have said “you come at yourself, you best not miss.” I’m being honest when I say if a bullet went through my head, I wouldn’t want to live to tell about it. Luckily for Katie and her family, Katie ain’t a pussy like me.
This is a photo of Andrea Schneider, the lady that died days prior and donated her face:
Big shout out to Andrea! I won’t even share my dinner and this bad bitch gave her mug to someone in desperate need of one. Hero.
Let’s take a look at a photo of Andrea’s face on the operating table:
Are you done gagging? This is without a doubt the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen. Arya Stark should have spent a season with these surgeons, because they’re the real Faceless Man.
Generally the rule of thumb with surgery is the more people in the room, the worse you’re off. When you have paparazzi leaning over the surgeons’ shoulders to snap photos, you’re in a medical league of your own. Here’s a photo of Andrea’s face becoming Katie’s new face:
If you’ll excuse me, I need to go vomit in the trash can. Think about this next time you’re bitching about getting caught in traffic. In a day or two, we’ll forget about Katie and continue complaining about our hangovers and the barista messing up our orders because that’s how life works, but try to remember it could be worse off; you can be under the knife for 16 hours.
Here’s the new and improved Katie post surgery:
Pictures say it all. I hope she’s not in physical pain, but unfortunately, I think she is. How can she not? The human body is amazing being able to survive a bullet to the dome and surgeries like this.
Katie intends to pick up where she left off, starting with college, online at first, and then maybe a career in counseling. “So many people have helped me; now I want to help other people,” she said. She hopes to speak to teenagers about suicide and the value of life.
Katie can write the best college admissions essay of all-time. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? Harvard or Yale, the choice is yours Katie. No admissions officer is putting your story in the rejection pile.
PS: Call the national suicide line if you need help. 1-800-273-8255