Connie Culp was shot in the face with a shotgun in 2004. The culprit was her own husband Thomas Culp. Mr. Culp, who also shot himself in the face, received a seven year prison sentence for the injuries he caused to his wife. He took a plea of no contest at the time to avoid causing his wife additional harm.
The shotgun left Connie Culp with severe disfigurements that required a number of surgeries to repair after which she was still disfigured. Injuries to her face included the shattering of one eye, cheeks, nose and the roof of her mouth. There were also bone and shotgun pellet splinters embedded in Mrs. Culp’s face. A tube was placed in her windpipe to enable her to breathe; she was left with her chin, lower lip, forehead and upper eyelids.
Dr. Risal Djohan is one of the plastic surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic that saw her injuries two months after the incident. Dr. Djohan wasn’t sure if he could repair the damage but he told her that he would try. Thirty operations to fix Connie Culp’s face involved taking portions of rib to form cheekbones, leg bones to make an upper jaw bone and numerous skin grafts that utilized skin taken from the thighs.
Despite the numerous surgeries she could not smell, breathe or eat solid food. A twenty-two hour operation performed on December 10, 2008 gave Culp 80 percent of her face from a woman that had just passed away. The world’s fourth face transplant was the most extensive replacing her “bones, muscles, nerves, skin and blood vessels.” She even received some of the woman’s teeth.
Culp has had one mild rejection that was treated with steroid medication and will have to take drugs to suppress her immune system for the rest of her life. The cost of the experimental transplant is being absorbed by the clinic and estimated to be between $250,000 and $300,000 which is less than the $1 million it is estimating treating disfigurements through numerous operations costs.
According to CNN Culp is happy with the results and the fact that she can once again smell and eat. She recently met the family of the woman whose face was transplanted onto her. Culp’s donor Anna Kasper was from Lakewood, Ohio and worked in a nursing home. Mrs. Kasper was an organ donor whose donation helped fifty people. The family told her that the two did not look that much alike with the nose being the only resemblance.
It took thirty surgeries to give Culp her face and shape it. Her doctors have said she is doing well and she is happy with the results. No longer does she have to pull a picture out of her wallet to show a scared child that she’s just a person who discovered you never know what could happen to you.