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Connie Culp (1963–2020), first U.S. recipient of a partial face transplant

by Linnea Crowther

Connie Culp was the first U.S. recipient of a partial face transplant, who lived longer than any other face transplant recipient to date.

Trauma and historic surgery

Culp’s face was badly damaged in 2004, when her then-husband shot her in an attempted murder-suicide. The shooting destroyed her nose, cheeks, roof of her mouth, and one eye. It left her nearly blind, as well as unable to breathe and in need of a surgical breathing opening in her throat. Culp underwent 30 surgeries before her historic near-total face transplant surgery in 2008 at the Cleveland Clinic. The operation took 22 hours and involved doctors rebuilding her nose and replacing tissue, muscle, bone, and more with the donations of an organ donor who had recently died. After the operation, Culp was again able to talk, breathe, smell and taste food, and smile.

Culp on the attack that changed her life

“I won’t let anybody talk about that. I spent six years thinking about it. And you know what? Now, it’s a new beginning. I have a new face. I’m a new me.” —from a 2010 interview with Diane Sawyer on “ABC World News”

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What people said about her

Full obituary: The New York Times

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