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Man who tried to take his own life given ‘miracle’ face transplant

 

He’d been waiting for this day, and when his doctor handed him the mirror, Andy Sandness stared at his image and absorbed the enormity of the moment: He had a new face, one that had belonged to another man.

He had the nose, cheeks, mouth, lips, jaw, chin, even the teeth of his donor. Resting in his hospital bed, he still couldn’t speak clearly, but he had something to say.

“Far exceeded my expectations,” he scrawled in a notebook

Last June, five months after his name was added to the waiting list of the United Network for Organ Sharing, he got word: A donor was available.

Calen “Rudy” Ross had fatally shot himself.Andy’s donor was a man called Calen “Rudy” Ross. He had fatally shot himself

His devastated 19-year-old widow, Lilly, was eight months pregnant.

Despite her grief, she carried out her husband’s wishes to be an organ donor.

 

The medical team at the Mayo Clinic, which had rehearsed the surgery for three years with cadaver heads, gathered one June night to start a 56-hour marathon.

It took about 24 hours to procure the donor’s face, which involved taking bone, muscle, skin and nerves and almost the same time to prepare Andy.

His face was rebuilt below his eyes, taking an additional 32 hours.

The surgery has given Andy his life back, he can now walk around outside without enduring the stares of people, and without scaring kids

The surgery has given Andy his life back, he can now walk around outside without enduring the stares of people, and without scaring kids

Having a nose and mouth are blessings, he said. “The looks are a bonus.”

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