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First US face transplant revealed
May 6, 2009 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Connie Culp, left without the middle section of her face after her husband shot her in 2004, is the recipient of the first US face transplant. This is her first time appearing before the media. There have been partial transplants in the past, but this is the world's first near-total facial transplant.

Isabelle Dinoire was the first, followed by Li Guoxing and Pascal Coler. There are, of course, complications.
posted by MaryDellamorte (39 comments total)

 
Incredible!

She said that she has forgiven her husband -- and at his 2005 hearing, she said that she would possibly take him back after his seven-year prison sentence.

[sigh] Just incredible.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:10 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


There just aren't words to express how horrible I feel for her, and how proud I am of her all at the same time. What a special lady.
posted by Kimothy at 4:21 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK, we've seen the after picture, and the before picture, and the before the before picture. Now I would like to see what the transplant face looked like on its original owner.
posted by fucker at 4:38 PM on May 6, 2009


She said that she has forgiven her husband -- and at his 2005 hearing, she said that she would possibly take him back after his seven-year prison sentence.

Doctors admitted they still have a little work left to do.
posted by hal9k at 4:50 PM on May 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


It wasn't clear to me from the linked story... Is she blind? She's wearing glasses, but she also apparently learned to read braille?
posted by mr_roboto at 4:52 PM on May 6, 2009


This Guardian article says she lost one eye in the attack.
posted by Rumple at 5:20 PM on May 6, 2009


i have been quite fascinated by this ever since i heard about it last year. i love medical oddities.

and, while yes she has a face now, i think it looks like a lego face. what, the docs couldn't have done a little contouring?!?

it really geeks me out that i've edited journal articles that the lead doc has worked on.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 5:30 PM on May 6, 2009


do you know what this means, people? Face/Off is no longer science-fiction. It's science

WE ARE LIVING IN A POST FACE-OFF WORLD.

it's a great fucking day, people.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 5:43 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


According to the AP article, "Her face is bloated and squarish, and her skin droops in big folds that doctors plan to pare away as her circulation improves and her nerves grow, animating her new muscles."
posted by ocherdraco at 5:47 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Between this and multiple organ transplants, medical technology rocks beyond belief. Shit, that's an entirely different person stuck on her face! Absolutely incredible that such things can be done.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:23 PM on May 6, 2009


They moved her eyes and forehead around completely. Her forehead was the same after the assault, but completely changed with the transplant. They feminized it in the same way they feminize transsexual foreheads.

The side view of the face is kind of pretty.

The skin quality is very healthy looking-- radiant and with an even tone. The donor must've been very young.

I can't wait until they perfect this; I'm going to be trolling the local morgue for sexy young tragedies to upgrade with every decade or so. I'll take a James Dean, please.
posted by fucker at 6:45 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I guess I'm the one you came to see today," the 46-year-old Ohio woman said at a news conference at the Cleveland Clinic, where the groundbreaking operation was performed. But "I think it's more important that you focus on the donor family that made it so I could have this person's face."
Thank you, donor family.

Thank you, all donors and donor families.
posted by Guy Smiley at 7:09 PM on May 6, 2009 [18 favorites]


And in related news, a guy from my hometown just underwent the first double hand transplant in the US; according to the article he will also get a bone marrow transplant from the donor to allow him to get by on only one anti-rejection drug. There have apparently been 8 previous double hand transplants worldwide. One thing I find interesting is that most of the firsts in this area have been done in countries like France, which certainly provides a compelling counter-example to the claim that socialized medicine stifles innovation.
posted by TedW at 7:35 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


One thing I find interesting is that most of the firsts in this area have been done in countries like France, which certainly provides a compelling counter-example to the claim that socialized medicine stifles innovation.

France doesn't have "socialized medicine"; it has an employer-based system, similar in many ways to that of the United States. French physicians are autonomous and there is a large private-sector health care industry. The French place a great value on the ability to choose their medical practitioners, and they have a lot of disdain for systems like that in Britain, which they perceive as "socialized". They also have one of the most expensive health care systems in Europe.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:45 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


to have someone who expresses humor, grace and dignity renews my faith in humanity. i want to thank her for having the guts to go public.
posted by kuppajava at 7:53 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Metro in Boston this morning featured a front-page spread of her natural face, her injured, healed half-face, and her new face. I could not stop staring at it. Her half-face looked like the sort of thing that a comic-book character would have covered with a perfect porcelain mask.

I felt like a horrible person for looking at her new face and thinking: if she was healed up, couldn't they wait until they found something that fit her at the face store? But if the new face will be "trimmed," so to speak, and grow into place, then she will soon look very normal.

She sounds like a classy woman, and I hope she's speaking to a doctor who can steer her towards therapy about that ex of hers before he gets out of prison.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:54 PM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


The shot came from the gun of Thomas Culp, her husband. His failed attempt at a murder-suicide sent him to prison for seven years -- and left his wife struggling to survive.

I want to know more about her fuck of a husband. Did he shoot himself in the head, as well? Is his face at least as horribly, grotesquely disfigured as what his wife had to endure for four years? Does he suffer? How the fuck did he only get seven years?

Surely the internet has a photo of Mr. Thomas Culp from Unionport, Ohio, right?
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 8:43 PM on May 6, 2009


France doesn't have "socialized medicine"

This is true; I was being lazy and using the conservative term for "universal health care".

They also have one of the most expensive health care systems in Europe.

Yet according to this source, they only spend half of what the US does per capita on health care (3040 US$ in 2007 vs. $6096 for the US)

The point I was trying to make is that as much as France is made fun of in this country, it is one of many countries that have a more legitimate claim to "best healthcare system in the world" than the US system that is routinely described as the best by those who profit from the status quo.
posted by TedW at 8:49 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's an article from 2005 about the shooting.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:01 PM on May 6, 2009


Surely the internet has a photo of Mr. Thomas Culp from Unionport, Ohio, right?

Here is a Thomas Culp on the Ohio Penitentiary web system. Looks like he lost an eye. On the search page (not linkable) it says he is in for aggravated attempted murder, so most likely the same guy.
posted by Rumple at 9:25 PM on May 6, 2009


I hate to sound insensitive, but attempting a murder-suicide with a shotgun and failing to kill either yourself or your intended victim is an EPIC FAIL.
posted by Jawn at 9:40 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I thought was the most amazing was that they transplanted the sense of smell from the donor. The recipient lost her nasal passages and couldn't smell anything. Apparently the nerves from the new nasal passages will connect up; it's already happened.

I didn't think that could happen with sensory nerves. (They don't have a myelin sheath, do they?)

It's gonna takes years before they're finished with her, and she'll never look completely normal, but it's going to be a damned sight better than if they hadn't done this. It is indeed a miracle.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:51 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Remember when Dick Cheney got drunk and shot that guy in the face?

Good times.
posted by neuron at 9:58 PM on May 6, 2009


I just saw her on TeeVee on her press conference. She sounds like an incredibly strong person and her advice not to take people at your first impression of their appearance rings very true.

Angry people: please, if you must go on a shooting rampage ending with yourself, aim for your own head first.
posted by OneOliveShort at 10:02 PM on May 6, 2009


I hate to sound insensitive

Really? Sounds like you're kind of enjoying it.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:26 PM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


What an incredible, lifelong ordeal for her.
posted by dhartung at 10:28 PM on May 6, 2009


Here's wishing her many days of quiet normalcy.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:34 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


do you know what this means, people? Face/Off is no longer science-fiction. It's science

WE ARE LIVING IN A POST FACE-OFF WORLD.


Eh. I'm pretty sure they still can't transplant faces on people with different blood types.

OT- this is truly amazing, I can't imagine the difference it makes to this woman's life. It gives her the chance at a life again.
posted by fshgrl at 10:42 PM on May 6, 2009


I am absolutely floored that she talks as well as she does. Not only does she have to adjust to a whole new oral cavity shape, but to be able to articulate her tongue, teeth, velum, as well as manipulate the airstream so that she can close off air at different points of articulation, and what not. It's an unbelievably complicated process, and there's a ton of parts. I can't imagine doing it with all new, different-shaped parts. I'd love to see/hear a recording of her voice before and after.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:48 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


What would have become of her if this had been 1988? She is remarkable in more and more ways every time I think about her situation.
posted by Flex1970 at 10:57 PM on May 6, 2009


I can't wait until they perfect this; I'm going to be trolling the local morgue for sexy young tragedies to upgrade with every decade or so. I'll take a James Dean, please.

Bring it on, Igor!
posted by five fresh fish at 12:23 AM on May 7, 2009


What I thought was the most amazing was that they transplanted the sense of smell from the donor. The recipient lost her nasal passages and couldn't smell anything. Apparently the nerves from the new nasal passages will connect up; it's already happened.

I am not convinced this happened, having read only the newspaper version of the story. I'd want to see something convincingly authoritative; it would be all too easy for a lazy journalist to interpret "got a new nose" with "got her sense of smell back."

It seems to me that if they can connect nasal nerve fibers from the transplant to the brain, or to the nerves that go directly to the brain, then they should be able to repair spinal nerve tissue.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:25 AM on May 7, 2009


Yeah, this is freakin' cool. This beer (that I'm drinking) goes out to medicine.
posted by saysthis at 12:47 AM on May 7, 2009


What I thought was the most amazing was that they transplanted the sense of smell from the donor. The recipient lost her nasal passages and couldn't smell anything. Apparently the nerves from the new nasal passages will connect up; it's already happened.</i/

Wait-- Wha...? Seriously? Because I've never had a sense of smell and this sounds like the most completely unlikely way to go about regaining a sense of smell... Could I just hijack someone else's nasal passages? Er, buy, I mean?

posted by maryh at 1:40 AM on May 7, 2009


Italics FAIL!
posted by maryh at 1:44 AM on May 7, 2009


For a second there I thought Jerry Lewis was hitting the prednisone again.
posted by hal9k at 3:10 AM on May 7, 2009


Apparently another patient at the same hospital is the poor woman, Charla Nash, who was blinded, disfigured and lost both hands in the chimpanzee attack.

Which obviously makes one wonder what the next phase in reconstructive surgery might be - being able to both rebuild faces and implant/transplant new eyes.

It's worth also pointing folks towards the father of modern plastic surgery, Archibald McIndoe and the Guinea Pig Club, who pioneered reconstructive surgery on burns victims among airmen in the Second World War.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:00 AM on May 7, 2009


"Thank you, all donors and donor families." Indeed. I am glad Ms. Culp thanked them too.

Several years a go, my mom's cousin lost her son in a car accident. She said the one thing that made it bearable to keep going was that 5 people received life-saving organs. I am an organ donor, but things like this remind me to talk to my family members and arrange my estate so any/all that I have could be used to help people like this brave lady.
posted by pointystick at 11:41 AM on May 7, 2009


Here is a Thomas Culp on the Ohio Penitentiary web system. Looks like he lost an eye. On the search page (not linkable) it says he is in for aggravated attempted murder, so most likely the same guy.

Just an eye? Seriously? Christ, is life ever unfair.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 5:11 AM on May 8, 2009


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