What's It Like to Have a New Face? Transplant Recipients Tell Us.

Three people talk about learning to accept a face that will never work as well as their first one.

Katie Stubblefield has joined what Shaun Fiddler, the Cleveland Clinic’s second face transplant recipient, good-naturedly calls “an elite group.” They share a history of trauma, highs and lows, painful encounters in public, and acceptance of a face that will never look as good or work as well as their first one. Three people with new faces talk about those challenges.

What was life like for you before surgery? I didn’t have a nose, so they made a prosthetic nose for me, and I had to glue it on. It’s a funny story because once when I was in a restaurant, I had all the glue disappear, from the heat of my coffee, so it’s sort of hanging, and I got so mad. I was with my twin sister. I ripped it off my face, and I forgot that the waitress saw me with a nose and then when she came back, I didn’t have a nose. And oh my God, you should’ve seen how white she turned. I mean, it was funny.

What made you take the risks that come with a transplant? I really didn’t think I had a choice, because I couldn’t eat. I had to eat everything with a straw. My older sister was really down on me. She said, “You could die. You could get cancer.” I said, “I don’t care at this point.”

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