|Connie before the incident|
|Connie after the terrifying incident|
|Connie's new face|
Connie Culp is a 46-year-old Ohio woman who has had the first face transplant in the US, and her new look was a far cry from the puckered, noseless sight that made children shrink away in horror, after being shot by her husband.
Culp's expressions are still a bit wooden, but she can talk, smile, smell and taste her food again. Her speech is at times a little tough to understand. 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. Culp's husband, Thomas, shot her in 2004 then turned the gun on himself. He went to prison for seven years. His wife was left clinging to life. The blast shattered her nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye. Hundreds of fragments of shotgun pellet and bone splinters were embedded in her face. She needed a tube into her windpipe to breathe. Only her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin were left.
She endured 30 operations. Doctors took parts of her ribs to make cheekbones and fashioned an upper jaw from one of her leg bones. She had countless skin grafts from her thighs. Still, she was left unable to eat solid food, breathe on her own, or smell. Then, in a 22-hour operation, Dr. Maria Siemionow led a team of doctors who replaced 80 percent of Culp's face with bone, muscles, nerves, skin and blood vessels from another woman who had just died. It was the fourth face transplant in the world.
No information has been released about the donor or how she died, but her family members were moved when they saw before-and-after pictures of Culp.