“We are sorry for the loss of Connie Culp, the country’s first face transplant”: Officials from the Cleveland Clinic recently announced the death of the first patient in the United States to undergo a face transplant procedure after being shot in the face with a shotgun.
Culp was 41 when her partner shot her from zero range and tried to end his life. The former bar owner from Ohio miraculously survived the incident, but her face was completely mutilated. For 4 years, she had to undergo an intensive rehabilitation procedure in order to regain her ability to eat and breathe as before. She also underwent dozens of cosmetic surgeries, during which surgeons replaced about 80% of her facial bones – including her cheekbones, nose, palate, upper jaw and eye sockets.
Culp’s husband turned the rifle towards himself after shooting his wife in 2004, but he too survived the incident. He was sent to serve a prison sentence for his actions after recovering in hospital. Shortly after his conviction, Connie divorced him and moved in with her three children.
In 2008, she became the first patient in the United States to undergo a face transplant after doctors found her a donor at the end of a two-month search. The surgery itself took 22 hours to complete and required the cooperation of some of the most skilled doctors in the west.
Dr. Pappy, one of the doctors who took part in the operation, referred to the news of Culp’s death and described her as a “brave pioneer.” The surgeon added: “She was the patient who survived the longest after the transplant and I think it shows how strong she was. She was a groundbreaking woman who was willing to go through sometimes very scary procedures and her courage contributed greatly to the development of the field. “Connie was 57 at the time of her death. The official cause of death has not yet been announced.