Man gets face transplant after suicide attempt

Posted: Updated:
Andy Sandness, before and after the transplant (CNN) Andy Sandness, before and after the transplant (CNN)

(CNN) -- Ten years ago, Andy Sandness attempted suicide by shooting himself in the face.

Rushed to the hospital, he miraculously survived. However, he was left with life-changing injuries, and without a nose, chin, or most of the flesh below his eyes.

"You know what? I was stupid," Sandness said. "I made the wrong choice, and now I'm paying for it for the rest of my life."

Last June, he was given a groundbreaking opportunity to get a new face via transplant.

A donor was found, Kaylin Ross, who like Sandness had turned a weapon on himself at the age of 21.

Ross' tragic death offered Sandness a glimmer of hope, and his surgery finally able to go ahead.

A team of specialists, led by Dr. Samir Mardini, had been practicing the face transplant technique for three years, rehearsing the full operation more than 30 times.

"A face transplantation is a combination of so many other procedures that we do, including eyelid surgery, jaw surgery, facial nerve surgery," said Mardini.

It involved mapping and preserving an intricate web on nerves on both Sandness and the donor's face.

The high-risk surgery lasted for a full 56-hours, with surgeons taking shifts.

"Far exceeded my expectations," Mardini said.

Sandness's new facial features have been completely restored, but not the ones he was born with.

"I was absolutely blown away by the results," Sandness said. "I just feel like a new person, walking around outside, going to shopping malls. Nobody asks any questions, nobody stares, I feel like another face in the crowd, now with the transplant, I just feel more comfortable and more confident doing these things."

Andy will need to continue speech therapy, and he will be on medication forever to stop his body from rejecting the transplant.

But he now has a new face and a new lease on life.

  • Social Connect

  • Contact

    AZ Family