Connie Culp, US First Facial Transplant Patient Dies at 57

  • The first-ever person to receive a facial transplant in the US, Connie Culp died on Wednesday. Her death is not related to the transplant.
  • Connie Culp dedicated the remaining years of her life to advocacies against domestic violence and has been actively supporting causes and organizations for people who are undergoing organ transplants.
Connie Culp dies at 57.
unsplash.com/photos/J5UaBt_MKRE

Connie Culp, the first person to receive a face transplant in America, died on Wednesday. She was 57 years old and by far the longest-living face transplant to date.

Her death was announced by the Cleveland Clinic, where she had an almost 100 percent facial transplant procedure last 2008. Details of her death were not disclosed, but Cleaveland Clinic said Connie Culp has been in the hospital for more than a month. The clinic’s spokeswoman Andrea Pacetti told international news sources that Connie Culp’s death is not related to the transplant.

Connie Culp was described by many as “an incredibly brave and vibrant woman.” Dr. Frank Papay, who is the chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, said Connie Culp is “an inspiration to many.”

According to Papay, Connie was a great pioneer. He said Connie’s decision to undergo a “sometimes daunting procedure” is an enduring gift for all of humanity.

The Tragedy of Connie Culp

In 2004, Connie Culp arrived at the Cleveland Clinic with a deformed face after her husband shot her straight on her face before turning the gun to himself. Her husband survived and was sent to prison for seven years.
Culp lost the mid-portion of her face, was left partially blind and unable to smell and speak. Surgery was performed at the back of her neck so she can breathe.
After 4 years since her first visit, the clinic’s doctors performed a 22-hour procedure to restore 80 percent of Connie Culp’s face using the facial skin of a deceased donor. Before that major operation, she has already been through 30 other corrective surgeries.

 

In the first few months after the surgery, Connie has had little control over the muscles in her new face. However, her facial nerves had regenerated after two years, and she was able to speak more clearly.

Despite the transplant, Connie Culp’s original face was not restored, but the surgery definitely helped her regain her senses, which were all lost after the shotgun blasted her cheeks, nose, the roof of the mouth, and a portion of her eyes.

Connie Culp said she was able to smell soap after the surgery, and it was a realization that her new face was working. She said she was able to smell again, but only good things such as the delicious scent of food, perfume, and the scent of the flowers brought to her by her grandson.
After years of just eating soft food, Connie was also able to eat anything after the surgery, and that includes hard to chew food such as good steak.
She dedicated the remaining years of her life to inspiring others by sharing her story. She also advocated against domestic violence and provided emotional support and encouragement to people like her who were undergoing a transplant.

Her ex-husband Thomas was released from prison in 2011, but was he and Culp never reconciled and lived together.

Connie was able to meet the family of Anna, her donor, several years after her surgery. Anna died of a heart attack in 2008. During the meeting, Connie Culp expressed her gratitude to Anna’s family. “Thank you is not strong enough,” she said in an emotional encounter with the family.
Connie Culp’s visit to the Centers for Organ Recovery and Education

A Toxic Warning to The World

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