Three years after a gunshot wound to the face left her with severe facial trauma, a woman last year became the youngest recipient of a full-face transplant in the United States, and now hopes to use her story to offer hope to others.
Katie Stubblefield lost her face at 18, when she attempted to take her own life, shooting herself in the face with a rifle. "That's number one, but beyond that, I'd like her to have some level of normalcy".
Katie Stubblefield, who appears on the cover of National Geographic's September issue, previous year endured a 31-hour face transplant procedure at the Cleveland Clinic funded by the Department of Defense, making her the youngest recipient of the operation, CNN reported. As well as having a face, she can now chew, swallow and breath independently for the first time in years.
At 21, Katie became the youngest person in the United States to have a face transplant.
Her journey was covered in the September issue of National Geographic magazine's cover story, which documents her journey of struggle, humanity and hope. The transplant, performed previous year, aims to restore Katie's face structure and functions - such as chewing, breathing and swallowing - which were lost in a severe gunshot injury, the haunting outcome of a suicide attempt as a teenager.
Her story has been told in a new National Geographic documentary and its Story of a Face magazine cover story following the historic procedure previous year.
One of the surgeons behind the transplant, Dr Brian Gastman, said: "Her whole story made our team come together much faster, and we sort of ran toward her to take care of her".
Katie Stubblefield is the youngest person ever to receive a full face transplant, after surviving a record-breaking 31 hour operation.
Katie was discharged from Cleveland Clinic on August 1, 2017. And she is speaking about her surgery to help warn of the lasting harms of suicide.
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However, Katie now remains unable to see and is learning Braille, according to the clinic. Her mouth was also gone except for the corners of her lips and bones that make up the jaws and front of her face were blown off too.
"I am able to touch my face now, and it feels awesome", said Katie, who still has some difficulty speaking clearly.
After the surgery was complete, Stubblefield had three major follow-up surgeries and extensive rehab treatment, and will have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life.
As Katie Stubblefield brushed her fingers across her face, she could feel the wound.
Katie's new face was donated by the family of Adrea Schneider, a 31-year-old mother-of-one who who died as the result of a drug overdose. "Now I want to help other people".
Photographer Maggie Steber, who spent two-and-a-half years capturing Katie and her family on camera, said: 'They are warriors.
"So many people have helped me".
Ms. Stubblefield plans to attend online college to pursue a career in counseling and motivational speaking to raise awareness about suicide and its prevention.