21-year-old woman becomes youngest in United States to receive face transplant

Although she attempted to commit suicide when she was 18 years old, Katie has no memory of this moment or of most of the year that followed as she was moved from a MS hospital to one in Tennessee, and another in Cleveland, Ohio.

Before her full transplant, she went through 22 different surgeries to try and reconstruct her face.

She is featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine's September issue, which debuted Tuesday, in an article titled "The Story of a Face" and in National Geographic's full-length documentary "Katie's Face".

Stubblefield said of the idea when it was first suggested, "I had no clue what a face transplant was". "I get a second chance at life now", Stubblefield said before her surgery began.

Ms Stubblefield lost parts of her forehead, her nose and sinuses, most of her mouth, and bones that make up her jaw and structures of her face.

Katie and her parents have been living at Cleveland's Ronald McDonald House for the last four years, the longest residents in the facility's history.

Specialists at the Cleveland Clinic transplanted the scalp, forehead, eyelids and nose as well as parts of her cheeks, jaw, muscle, teeth and more, the hospital explained in a report, "effectively replacing 100 percent of the patient's facial tissue".

Ms Schneider had a hard life, born with drugs in her system to a drug addicted mother who died when she was only 13-years-old. The surgery took 31 hours and required 11 surgeons to participate across several disciplines. "Then when you receive a transplant, you're so thankful".

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She said she was shocked: "I never thought of doing that ever before, and so on hearing about it, I just didn't know how to handle it".

Katie also continues physical and occupational therapy, works with a speech therapist and takes Braille lessons.

A grant from the US Department of Defense, through the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, covered Katie's transplant, according to National Geographic. She takes immunosuppressive drugs to reduce her risk of transplant rejection, which occurs when a transplant recipient's immune system attacks the transplanted organ or tissue.

But she intends to pick up where she left off, she told National Geographic, going to college and perhaps pursuing a career in counseling.

Photographer Maggie Steber, who spent two-and-a-half years capturing Katie and her family on camera, said: 'They are warriors.

"So many people have helped me; now I want to help other people", she said. Schneider's grandmother, Sandra Bennington, made the decision to donate Andrea's face. 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.

'They're like eagles who are protecting a young bird.

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