Many people under go plastic surgery to help or treat a medical condition. Tumor removal is the most common cosmetic surgical procedure in this category and is performed on a variety of different tumors each year. Breast cancer survivors as well as some people who suffer from sleep apnea also have procedures done. Victims of disfiguring accidents usually need cosmetic surgery to return their bodies to normal and Connie Culp is such a person.
45 year old Connie Culp, of Union point Ohio, suffered a horrible disfigurement to her face, from a shot gun blast fired by her husband. The blast shattered her nose, cheeks, and the roof of her mouth. She lost one eye, much of the tissue in her mid face, and had to have a tube placed into her windpipe in order to breath. Her chin and lower lip, as well as her eyelids and forehead, were spared. After the shotgun pellets were removed, some initial surgery was done and then two months later she was able to visit a plastic surgeon.
She told Fox News that upon seeing her face, “He [Dr. Risal Djohan of the Cleveland Clinic] told me he didn’t think, he wasn’t sure, if he could fix me, but he’d try.” After 30 operations, where doctors took pieces of her ribs to make cheek bones and made an upper jaw from one of her leg bones, she was disappointed to find that she was not fixed. She was still forced to breathe through a tube and eat liquid foods.
Dr. Maria Siemionow then led a team of doctors to perform a facial transplant on Ms. Culp. In the 22 hour operation they replaced 80 percent of Connie’s face with parts from a woman’s face, who had just died. The procedure left her face looking much improved, though it sagged in places and was bloated in others. These features were necessary to help her facial nerves to reconnect to the new muscle and blood circulation to improve. Eventually, surgeons will be able to smooth these features out.
In the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal, Dr. Maria and some of her colleagues wrote, “We are pleased to report an excellent functional, psychological, and social outcome for our patient at eight months following transplantation.” The procedure was estimated by Siemionow to have cost between $250,000 and $300,000. Performing a dozen separate surgeries to accomplish the same affect could cost over $1 million.
Connie was very grateful for the successful procedure and is happy to be able to rejoin society without looking like a ‘monster’. Facial transplants are still experimental, with only a few having been performed around the world. This procedure is wonderful and could prove to help many victims of terrible accidents.