Connie Culp, First Face Transplant Recipient in U.S., Dies at 57

Connie Culp, the primary affected person in the USA to obtain a face transplant, died on Wednesday on the Cleveland Clinic, which had carried out her process in 2008. She was 57.

She died of problems from an an infection that was unrelated to her transplant, a spokeswoman for the hospital mentioned. The clinic confirmed Ms. Culp’s dying on Twitter.

Ms. Culp was the longest-living face transplant affected person on this planet, the spokeswoman mentioned.

“She was a fantastic pioneer and her resolution to bear a sometimes-daunting process is a permanent reward for all of humanity,” mentioned Dr. Frank Papay, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Dermatology and Plastic Surgical procedure Institute.

Dr. Papay was a part of the surgical staff that carried out Ms. Culp’s 23-hour operation in 2008, which changed her broken face with that of a lately deceased lady.

It was probably the most intensive and complex face transplant at the time. Three face transplants had been completed earlier than Ms. Culp’s: two in France and one in China.

A Cleveland Clinic ethics committee had accredited such a process solely in 2004, the primary such committee to take action. Dr. Eric Kodish, the then chairman of the clinic’s bioethics division, told The New York Times after the transplant that Ms. Culp had undergone psychological testing earlier than the surgical procedure.

She was requested whether or not it was she or a member of the family who needed the transplant, and about how she felt about residing with the face from a useless particular person, Dr. Kodish mentioned.

Ms. Culp was shot by her husband, Thomas Culp, in 2004, damaging most of her face and leaving her unable to breathe or eat on her personal. Her husband, with whom she had a common-law marriage, based on The Plain Dealer, was sentenced to seven years in jail for aggravated tried homicide and launched in 2011.

After taking pictures his spouse, Mr. Culp turned the shotgun on himself however solely misplaced just a few enamel and a number of the imaginative and prescient in his left eye. He nonetheless regarded the identical, Ms. Culp instructed The Plain Seller.

She mentioned she had forgiven her husband. “I nonetheless love my husband,” she instructed “Good Morning America” in 2009. “I forgave him the day he did it. I’ve to.”

Round 40 such surgical procedures have been completed worldwide since Ms. Culp’s, mentioned Dr. Thomas Romo III, director of facial plastic and reconstructive surgical procedure at Lenox Hill Hospital and Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital.

Her procedure was immediately successful and Ms. Culp’s physique didn’t reject the transplant, although she wanted to take anti-rejection medicine for the remainder of her life as a result of her physique might have rejected the transplant at any time. The medicine suppress a affected person’s immune system to forestall it from rejecting the transplant but in addition make the particular person extra inclined to infections.

Most face transplant procedures are associated to gunshot wounds or accidents involving animals, Dr. Romo mentioned.

Charla Nash, who obtained a full face transplant in 2011 after being mauled by her pal’s pet chimpanzee in Stamford, Conn., was hospitalized in 2016 after she participated in a trial to find out if transplant sufferers might be weaned off the medicine.

Face transplants are extra than simply beauty enhancements for sufferers, Dr. Romo mentioned. After profitable transplants, most sufferers are in a position to communicate, eat and in any other case reside a extra regular life.

If not for the surgical procedure, Ms. Culp wouldn’t have been in a position to smile or discuss, Dr. Romo mentioned, including that face transplants can have optimistic psychological results for sufferers.

Ms. Culp is “a milestone in medical historical past, and shall be without end,” he mentioned.

She was chosen for the then-experimental surgical procedure due to her optimism and willingness to comply with medical orders, based on a 2010 profile in The Plain Seller.

Ms. Culp and her husband beforehand ran a drywall, portray and wallpapering enterprise earlier than they purchased a restaurant and bar in 2004, the place she typically labored from the early morning till late at night time, The Plain Seller reported.

She was born on March 26, 1963. Particulars about survivors weren’t instantly accessible.

At a information convention unveiling her new face in 2009, Ms. Culp requested others to be type to folks with facial disfigurements.

“Don’t choose individuals who don’t look the identical as you do,” she mentioned. “Since you by no means know. At some point it could be all taken away.”

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