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Later in 2016, she was declared stable, and a year later she received the surgery that redefined her bone structure, including her nose, nasal passage, and her jaw and regained her ability to chew, swallow, or breathe on her own. She will continue to take the medication for the rest of her life. A few months later, she and her boyfriend broke up.

Ms Stubblefield does not remember the day she tried to kill her self in March 2014 or much of the months which followed.

Her parents, Robb and Alesia Stubblefield, play an important role in the National Geographic story, putting their lives on hold for four years as they helped guide their daughter through the historic surgery and recovery.

After a 31-hour procedure, Katie Stubblefield emerged from an operation room previous year with a new face and new possibilities.

Katie was discharged from Cleveland Clinic on August 1, 2017.

Although she survived, she had lost her forehead, nose and sinuses. Her parents are looking into eye transplants for her next, so her eyesight can be restored.

Stubblefield lost all facial functions after a suicide attempt. Right: Photo by Martin Schoeller.

"I am forever grateful for the care this hospital has given me and continues to offer on my journey of recovery and healing", Stubblefield said in a statement past year from the clinic. "That's number one, but beyond that, I'd like her to have some level of normalcy".

Gastman said that in his 27 years of training and practice this was one of the worst face traumas he'd ever seen. Now she's sharing her story with the world.




Five weeks after Katie almost died from the gunshot wound, she arrived at the Cleveland Clinic in dire need of reconstructive surgery.

National Geographic documented the journey in photographs.

"I felt so guilty that I had put my family through such pain".

The operation was the Cleveland Clinic's third face transplant and the 40 in the world.

A surgeon eventually suggested the family consider a face transplant - a procedure they'd never heard of. "Then when you receive a transplant, you're so thankful". The recipient, Isabelle Diniore died last year at the age of 49, 11 years after the surgery. "I get a second chance at life now", Stubblefield said before her surgery began.

To prepare for the surgery, doctors used 3D printing to assist with reconstructing about 90 per cent of her jaw, using her older sister Olivia McCay as a model. The only problem? This posed a greater risk of Katie's body rejecting the new face.

"So many people have helped me".

But she intends to pick up where she left off, she told National Geographic, going to college and perhaps pursuing a career in counseling.

Dr Brian Gastman, one of the surgeons who operated on Katie, said: "Her whole story made our team come together much faster, and we sort of ran toward her to take care of her". She hopes to speak to teenagers about suicide and the value of life.


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