Connie Culp showed off results of the work
Connie Culp, a woman who received the most extensive face transplant performed to date, stepped forward on Tuesday night to show off the results of the work.
Mrs Culp, 46, underwent a groundbreaking 22-hour operation at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio last December to restore a face that had been shattered by a point-blank shotgun wound in 2004.
A team of surgeons transplanted 80 per cent of the face, including a nose, cheeks, lower eyelids, upper jaw, palate and some bone, all taken from the same unknown dead woman.
Her identity was kept secret until Tuesday when she appeared briefly at a press conference at the hospital in Cleveland. ‘Well, I guess I’m the one you came to see today,’ Mrs Culp said. ‘While I know you all want to focus on me, I think it’s more important you focus on the donor family that made it so I could have this Christmas present.’
The eight doctors who performed the operation, which involved placing the new face over hers like a mask, said she will now be able to drink from a cup, eat solids, smile, smell and breathe through her nose.
Her square-shaped face droops heavily and is bloated – a result of doctors transplanting extra tissue because they thought some of it might be rejected. She will underdo several more minor procedures to remove some of the excess donor skin as her circulation improves and her nerves grow, animating her new muscles.
Dr Maria Seimionow, Mrs Culp’s surgeon, said she had ‘progressed tremendously’, adding: ‘Her chance of getting a very good outcome with minimal side-effects is very high.’