Youngest face transplant elevates cosmetic surgery

Your face is a prominent part of your identity. Your face distinguishes you from anyone else and is a primary way to help express your feelings. Katie Stubblefield, having just recently moved to Oxford, Mississippi and gone through a painful breakup, lost that crucial part of her identity when she attempted suicide.

When she was only 18 years old, Stubblefield shot a gun through her head. The bullet severely deformed her face and she lost certain facial features that are critical to survival. Stubblefield had difficulty breathing, as her nose and mouth were closed. Her vision was faltered, and she could hardly eat, needing to be spoon fed. Frank Papay and Brian Gastman, veteran surgeons, stepped up to the opportunity of the operation to transplant 31-year-old Andrea Schneider’s face onto Stubblefield’s. Gastman said that through his 27 years of training as a surgeon he had never seen face trauma as bad as Stubblefield’s. On May 17, 2017 the operation started. Initially, the doctors planned to replace the area around the mouth and nose, but the skin tone didn’t match up and the donor’s face did not fit correctly.  The surgeons ended up performing a transplant on the entire face. After 31 hours, almost 100% of Stubblefield’s original face was replaced.

The face transplant’s impact on the science community was momentous. Stubblefield became the youngest person to receive a face transplant, and the knowledge and experience required can be helpful for future situations.

“Stubblefield’s experience was used as a trial for potential surgeries involving injured soldiers, and that this operation is so significant because a face defines who you are,” said science teacher Mrs. Paula Nicolau.

Luckily for Stubblefield, the remarkable advances in medical science has given her a second chance to recover her identity.

“I am so grateful for my own good fortune and identity and how I use facial expression to connect with my friends, speak my mind, and be genuine” said Annicka Esquivel, a sophomore student, when she heard Stubblefield’s story