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First U.S. Facial Transplant Recipient Revealed

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, May 06, 2009 10:37 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Facial Reconstruction, Traumatic Brain Injury


IMAGE SOURCE: © Connie Culp at a news conference at the Cleveland Clinic.

Connie Culp, the 46-year-old Ohio woman who underwent the first near-total face transplant in the U.S., appeared in public for the first time Tuesday at a press conference at the Cleveland Clinic.

In 2004, Culp was shot in the face by her then husband. The blast destroyed her nose, cheeks and jaw, she could not breathe on her own or eat solid food.

Although her expressions are still a bit wooden, she can now talk, smile, smell and taste her food again. Culp had nothing but praise for those who made her new face possible during a 22-hour operation in December.

Dr. Maria Siemionow, M.D., led a team of doctors who essentially replaced Culp’s entire face, except for her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin. It was the fourth face transplant in the world, though the others were not as extensive.

The face transplant was complex and integrated different functional components such as a nose, lower eyelids as well as different tissue types including bony structures, arteries, veins, skin and nerves.

She was discharged from the hospital in February but will continue to be monitored, operated on and treated over the next several months to ensure that her new face will not be rejected by her body, facial nerves regenerate and to remove extra skin.

At the news conference, Culp said she wants to help foster acceptance of those who have suffered burns and other disfiguring injuries.

"When somebody has a disfigurement and don't look as pretty as you do, don't judge them, because you never know what happened to them," she said. "Don't judge people who don't look the same as you do. Because you never know. One day it might be all taken away." #

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