Chrissy gets a new face.
July 20, 2010 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Rebuilding Chrissy's Face.

"Most of her face was gone. There was just this gaping hole in her face where her eyes and nose and most of her mouth had been. I thought she was dead. I just figured this was going to be another homicide scene.

"Then I saw her fingers start to move - ever so slightly. And it looked like she was trying to breathe through the wound in her face."
posted by bwg (44 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Astonishing. What a story. Thanks for posting.
posted by Ratio at 4:27 PM on July 20, 2010

That might be the most amazing case for SCIENCE! one could find in the last few decades.
posted by WeX Majors at 4:28 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow. Remarkable. And not just in the lifetime movie sort of way. Like really. fucking. remarkable.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:29 PM on July 20, 2010

Completely amazing. I'm frankly stupefied.
posted by jquinby at 4:32 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by Maztec at 4:33 PM on July 20, 2010

What makes the story even more compelling, in a way, is the extent to which she doesn't seem to need the mask.
posted by thejoshu at 4:34 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Um. Before I click on what looks to be an extremely fascinating story, can someone tell me if there are any pictures that will make me wish I hadn't?
posted by elizardbits at 4:43 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Elizardbits- There's no blood, and the shots where you can see her face are... kind? It didn't seem like gross-out porn to me. There are no closeups of scarring. There are some drawings. She mostly wears a mask.
posted by Adridne at 4:46 PM on July 20, 2010

Wow. Incredible story.
posted by yhbc at 4:53 PM on July 20, 2010

Eh, blood doesn't scare me, I've seen it every month since i was 9.

Nevertheless, that was intense. And awesome. The first profile shot made me gasp a bit, admittedly.
posted by elizardbits at 4:55 PM on July 20, 2010

Wow. I just watched Katie: My Beautiful Face the other day, plastic surgeons are incredible.
posted by shinybaum at 4:57 PM on July 20, 2010

The fact that insurance would call this "cosmetic" in the same sense as nose jobs and breast lifts is pretty astounding. Amazing story. I was very touched by her upbeat attitude and pure resilience of spirit.
posted by Nixy at 4:59 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

The fact that insurance would call this "cosmetic" in the same sense as nose jobs and breast lifts is pretty astounding.

Astounding and offensive, really. I mean, would they tell someone missing a limb that their prosthesis was "cosmetic"?

...Wait. Please tell me insurance companies don't do this. Ugh, they probably do.
posted by elizardbits at 5:01 PM on July 20, 2010

Wow. Truly moving. Always nice to have reminder how insignificant my problems really are.
posted by gnutron at 5:05 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

To me the most amazing thing is that she's smiling in most of the photos, before as well as after. I might be attributing more than is due, but to me that speaks of an impressive inner strength.
posted by lekvar at 5:10 PM on July 20, 2010

I have a friend who makes facial prosthetics for a living. Everyday he gets to work with children missing eyes or cancer patients missing jaws. He finds the work very satisfying.

I enjoy it because there is no shortage of spare parts in his apartment.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:12 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Link to Oregonian article about her case. I like this photo story but some of the images lack context. Plus there are some great quotes in this: "When you laugh, your nostrils flare a bit. When I put the nose on the patient and she laughs, the prosthesis better laugh too."
posted by Tesseractive at 5:25 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's no blood, you do see her face with a big hole in it, but after it's 'healed'. It's worth it, no question.
posted by Huck500 at 5:26 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Very nice story. At the end, when her son still recognized her made me cry a bit.
posted by brevator at 5:32 PM on July 20, 2010

Really incredible. She's an amazingly strong person.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:46 PM on July 20, 2010

I have tears. Thanks for posting this. Amazing story of amazing strength!!
posted by pearlybob at 5:48 PM on July 20, 2010

I agree with elizardbits, the profile photos were the ones that really wowed me. What a great story.

I also enjoyed the way the photos and story were presented- quite elegantly.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:53 PM on July 20, 2010

Photo 55 was my favorite.

Interesting to have the timeline, x-rays and diagrams to really understand how this was so artfully done. Also liked the fact that the initial accident was described briefly as possible to begin the story, then put aside.
posted by variella at 5:54 PM on July 20, 2010

Incredible story. And well told - all too often media people turn tales like Chrissy's into melodrama, with swelling music and emotionally-manipulative narration.

The choice to mix video, photos, info-graphics and text is a good one. I hope it gets this story in front of people who might otherwise have said "meh, tl;dr" to a long article and closed the tab.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 6:13 PM on July 20, 2010

My gooddness, that was interesting. Thanks for posting that. It really reminds me of how interesting the world is, and what kind of magnificent things are going on somewhere else, while I'm just living my life over here with my little (magnificent in a different way) family.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:32 PM on July 20, 2010

Some back story.
The shotgun that blew away the face of a 16-year-old Portland girl at a party in March was one of 15 weapons the girl, her boyfriend and two friends had stolen to sell for marijuana, an investigation shows.

Police on Thursday arrested three Portland-area men, ages 18, 19 and 23, in connection with the March 9 burglary of a store along the Oregon coast that doubles as a grocery and gun shop.

Christine Steltz, who was left blind and permanently disfigured in the shooting March 21, was one of two getaway drivers who waited as her boyfriend, William O'Brien III, 18, and another teen-ager broke into Fox Grocery and Firearms, carrying out 15 guns and thousands of dollars' worth of rifle scopes and binoculars, police said.
Grocery and gun shop. Gives you an idea of the kind of place she grew up in.
posted by stavrogin at 6:44 PM on July 20, 2010

That background was useful—it was confusing to read this without understanding how she could have sustained such a horrific injury. I couldn't envision how such an injury could be sustained without being shot by a shotgun from a range of around two to five feet. That also explains the x-ray, with the scattered white points throughout—they're pellets.
posted by waldo at 7:06 PM on July 20, 2010

Tearing up over here. Thank you so much for sharing.
posted by hermitosis at 7:16 PM on July 20, 2010

Wonderful feature, fascinating stuff.

However, the social psychologist in me says that they really should have made the prosthesis with the eyes closed. When the novelty wears off, and she wants to start wearing it to interact with strangers, the unmoving, unblinking stare is probably going to drive people right into the Uncanny Valley, as well as send conflicting social signals as to her sightedness.

The doctors have apparently built similar prostheses before for people with monocular vision, but it's a different kettle of fish when you're fully blind.
posted by xthlc at 7:48 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's amazing.

To me the most amazing thing is that she's smiling in most of the photos, before as well as after.

One of the more humbling periods of my life was when I needed, in my late teens, a series of reconstructive surgeries on my forehead for a tumor.

My plastic surgeon specialized in treating children; I would frequently share the waiting room with kids who had horrific facial injuries. Rambunctious kids running about, playing with toys and being, well, just kids. It put a lot of my own problems into perspective -- not to see the obviously greater physical burden these children had to bear... but rather how unconcerned they seemed to be about their disfigurements.
posted by Wossname at 8:16 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Wow, just wow. What an inspiring story. Just fantastic. Thank you for posting this.
posted by victoriab at 8:48 PM on July 20, 2010

xthlc, she could wear sunglasses to cover up those `uncanny` eyes
posted by kuatto at 9:09 PM on July 20, 2010

My eye was injured once and it hurt like hell. I can't even begin to imagine the amount of pain she had to endure. I hope the guy that did it feels real bad.
posted by ambulocetus at 9:21 PM on July 20, 2010

The technology is impressive. SHE is astounding. What a gorgeous spirit.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:04 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

“When anybody finds out how I went blind, their first comment 99 percent of the time is, ‘I’m sorry.’ And my response to that is: I’m not. I lived. There’s nothing to be sorry about living through something like that. Don’t be sorry for me. Be happy for me. Be proud of the fact that I have gone on with my life.”

Damn. Now THAT is courage, and I know now that I have never had a real problem in my life, and can never really complain about anything.

She is already twice the man I could ever be.
posted by Quasimike at 10:12 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Man, she looks so much like one of my cousins, it's uncanny.

I hope that that lady who had her face torn off by the chimp can get something like this.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:17 PM on July 20, 2010

Wow, what a story, thanks so much for posting it. I only wish there was some way to restore her sight with that mask, so her new eyes could be more than, well... cosmetic. I hope I'll see those kinds of advances in my lifetime. Even this is incredibly exciting; though someday, if all goes well, we'll look back at this mask-making as a milestone, but a crude and archaic one. The human race is nearly ready for cybernetic implants.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:01 PM on July 20, 2010

When I was paging through the initial link of course my morbid curiosity made me wonder at the circumstance of the shooting... The background makes the story even more amazing. This is a really young person enmeshed in a life that was leading all but inexorably to tragedy. Probably a matter of millimeters in that accidental shooting would have ended in her immediate death, a pellet severing a major artery or piercing her brain. Then again, a few inches might have found the blast all but harmlessly discharged above her head, and what might a bunch of drunk teenagers do with that? Sober up for a minute, laugh it off, and later she dies in the next robbery gone wrong, or tried as an adult and prison for life with some other innocent person dead. There is a very real possibility that this accident saved her life in one way or another.

Now if we could just get our shit together as a species, stop doing things like investing so much energy into developing technology to make sure that when we mean to kill a motherfucker, that motherfucker is D-E-A-D, in a few short decades maybe we could give that mask eyes that could see.
posted by nanojath at 11:25 PM on July 20, 2010

Boo insurance (WTF?!) Yay, Zimmer Dental. Great photo essay on an amazing story.
posted by chavenet at 12:21 AM on July 21, 2010

p. 46 - Epic Beard Man?
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 5:30 AM on July 21, 2010

After reading this I had three thoughts. First, it's incredible what advances in prosthetic and surgical technologies have to offer. Second, I take things like having a "normal" face for granted and shouldn't.

Third, guns do a lot of damage. A lot of damage.

This is quite a story; thanks for posting.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:34 AM on July 21, 2010

I loved the questions the kids in the class asked because they are exactly what I wanted to know:

Does she get headaches? Was it painful? Where exactly was the boy who shot her? Did he go to jail? Was it an accident? Was he upset? Is she still mad at him? What did it feel like?

And you know, this story is a good reminder for me on how point of view is so relative. If I'd read that Oregon Live article at the time, I've no doubt I would have thought "blind and permanently disfigured" was a perfectly fine result for the getaway driver in an armed robbery and thought nothing more of it. But seeing the story from this perspective, she seems like a tremendous person who has lead a remarkable life for the last ten years and really deserves the generosity that made this possible for her.

Also: die insurance companies, die.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:47 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

From the article:

Final question: "Can you cry?"

"Yes," Steltz says.

posted by leftoverboy at 10:14 AM on July 21, 2010

Wow, amazing.
posted by amro at 4:48 PM on July 21, 2010

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