The Remarkable Saga of a Young Woman's Face Transplant

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Katie a few months before her attempted suicide aged 18 and as she looks after her successful operation

The then-18-year-old had just found out her boyfriend had been texting another girl, and also recently undergone surgery for gastrointestinal problems, according to National Geographic, which chronicles Ms Stubblefield's story in its latest edition.

She lost her nose and parts of her mouth and forehead, but she survived.

"We think her story is one of the most important stories that we will do this year", the editor said.

But after 22 operations and her final face transplant she has chose to spread her message to help others suffering with suicidal thoughts. The world's fist successful face transplant was conducted at Vall d'Hebron University Hospital in Spain in 2010.

A 21-year-old woman who tried to take her own life by shooting herself in the face has become the youngest person in the United States to receive a face transplant.

Stubblefield's ordeal is also the cover story of National Geographic's September issue with the feature "Story of a Face". She was transferred to the Cleveland Clinic with the hopes of an eventual face transplant.

A National Geographic documentary follows Stubblefield from the injury through the process of finding a donor and the aftermath of the face transplant surgery.

Dr. Brian Gastman, a plastic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, said Katie received the "ultimate second chance".

Detailing the procedure in an article on its website, the clinic said the surgery included: "Transplantation of the scalp, the forehead, upper and lower eyelids, eye sockets, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw and half of lower jaw, upper teeth, lower teeth, partial facial nerves, facial muscles, and skin - with 100 per cent of her facial tissue effectively replaced".

Five weeks after the incident, Stubblefield was brought to Cleveland Clinic.

She hopes to speak to teenagers about suicide prevention, echoing what she told CNN: "Life is precious, and life is lovely".

However, Katie now remains unable to see and is learning Braille, according to the clinic.

"I am able to touch my face now, and it feels wonderful", said Ms Stubblefield, who still has some difficulty speaking clearly. She said, "They weren't going to wait for me, and why should they?"

Stubblefield was able to get the surgery thanks to a U.S. Department of Defense grant, which helps soldiers who suffer severe facial wounds to get help through the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

"I am forever grateful for the care this hospital has given me and continues to offer on my journey of recovery and healing", Stubblefield said in a statement past year from the clinic. "So many people have helped me; now I want to help other people", she told the magazine. Almost 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016, and more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.

"So many people have helped me", Stubblefield, who hopes to speak on suicide prevention, told the magazine.

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