Last evening, as I watched the ABC Evening News I was mesmerized by Connie Culp. She is still not the physically beauty she was prior(photo credit) to her 2004 gun shot injury to her face, but what an amazing woman!
Culp, 46, received the first U.S. face transplant in December 2008. The 22 hour procedure took place at the Cleveland Clinic. At the time nothing was revealed about the patient. Yesterday, she came forth and stepped in front of the camera at a Cleveland Clinic press conference.
The gun shot wound, inflicted by her husband, in 2004 had removed most of her mid-face, leaving her forehead and chin area, but taking her nose, lips, palate, and maxilla. With no bony or soft tissue to support up upper airway, she breathed through a tracheostomy (a surgical opening in her neck). The palate and soft tissue loss made it difficult to speak.
I was impressed with her soft voice and poise. She is still learning to speak so not all of her words are perfectly articulated, but her speech is clear enough. She reports that she can now smell. She is now able to eat foods that require chewing such as hamburgers and pizza. Before the surgery she was only able to drink through a straw. She laughs easily with joy. (photo credit)
Culp, a mother of two, focused on her gratitude, "I want to focus on the donor family that allowed me to have this Christmas present."
She asked the public to have empathy for people with facial disfigurements. "When somebody don't look as pretty as you do, don't judge them," she said. "You don't know what might happen to you. Don't judge the people who don't look the same way as you do. You never know when it may be taken away from you.
Her new face has given her the ability to be in the public with less judgment than before. She recalled how children where often scared by her old face.
Dr Siemionow, the head surgeon, noted "The last resort and the last option was to consider face transplantation." Transplant recipients have to take immunosuppressing, anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their life. Those issues must be stressed.
Jacob Goldstein, WSJ, has some references to some nice articles in his post Face Transplants: Further Reading for anyone who wishes to look “for more detail about the surgical technique, its aftermath and the broader implications might consider digitally thumbing through some of the key papers published on the subject in the past few years.”
Face Transplant: 'Resilience' Saw Woman Through By Dan Childs;
May 6, 2009; ABC News
Cleveland Clinic face transplant patient Connie Culp hopes her story teaches people not to judge by Brie Zeltner/Plain Dealer Reporter; Tuesday May 05, 2009, 5:00 PM; Cleveland.com
Face Transplant (March 24, 2008)