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First U.S. Face Transplant Recipient Recounts Ordeal
Date:5/6/2009

46-year-old woman lost most of mid-face area in gun blast

WEDNESDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) --The recipient of the first face transplant done in the United States has stepped forward to reveal the results of her surgery.

Connie Culp, a 46-year-old Ohio woman, lost a large part of her face in 2004 when her husband shot her in the face, then turned the gun on himself. He went to prison for seven years. According to the Associated Press, the gunshot destroyed Culp's nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and one eye and left hundreds of bone fragments and shotgun pellets lodged in her face. Only her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin remained. Culp could not breathe without the aid of a tube inserted into her windpipe.

But now a 22-hour face transplant operation -- conducted Dec. 10 and led by Dr. Maria Siemionow of the Cleveland Clinic -- may have given Culp a new lease on life.

Her expressions are still a bit wooden, and her face has a bulky, squarish look. But doctors say subsequent operations -- performed once her circulation and nerves begin to grow -- should improve her appearance further.

"I guess I'm the one you came to see today," Culp, a mother of two and grandmother of two preschoolers, said Tuesday at a news conference at the Cleveland Clinic. Now able to talk, smile, smell and taste food, Culp said that it's "more important that you focus on the donor family that made it so I could have this person's face."

No information is being released about the female donor and how she died, but Culp said the deceased woman's family were moved when they viewed before-and-after pictures of Culp's transformation.

The face transplant was the fourth performed in the world (the first was for a French woman, Isabelle Dinoire, in 2005) and the most extensive ever performed, according to the AP.

Culp's identity and the nature of her injuries had been kept secret un
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