A US woman who had her face destroyed by a shotgun blast has died aged 57, confirmed by the plastic surgery institute that carried out her procedure. Picture: AP/Amy Sancetta.
A US woman who had her face destroyed by a shotgun blast has died aged 57, confirmed by the plastic surgery institute that carried out her procedure. Picture: AP/Amy Sancetta.

First US face transplant recipient dies

Connie Culp, an Ohio woman who became the first recipient of a partial face transplant after surviving a botched murder-suicide attempt, died Thursday at the age of 57.

Culp's cause of death has yet to be revealed, but her passing was confirmed by the Cleveland Clinic's Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, where she underwent her surgical procedure.

"Connie was an incredibly brave, vibrant woman, and an inspiration to many," Dr. Frank Papay, chair of the clinic's Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, said in a statement.

"Her strength was evident in the fact that she had been the longest-living face transplant patient to date. She was a great pioneer and her decision to undergo a sometimes-daunting procedure is an enduring gift for all of humanity."

Connie Culp received a new face from a dead woman in 2008 after her then husband, Thomas Culp, shot her in the face before turning the gun on himself.

Both husband and wife survived the blasts. Thomas was sent to prison for seven years, while Connie was left without a nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye.

Connie suffered 30 operations in a bid by plastic surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic to remove hundreds of shotgun pellets and bone splinters from her face.

 

Culp’s face was badly damaged after the tragic incident (left), before undergoing the first face transplant surgery in December 2008. Picture: AP/Cleveland Clinic-HO.
Culp’s face was badly damaged after the tragic incident (left), before undergoing the first face transplant surgery in December 2008. Picture: AP/Cleveland Clinic-HO.

 

The cost of the surgery - which involved reconstructing 80 per cent of her face using bone, muscles, nerves, skin and blood vessels from a dead woman - has been estimated at up to $400,000.

Most of that cost was absorbed by the clinic, as the surgery was experimental.

After her strenuous recovery, Culp became an ardent domestic-violence speaker.

"I've met probably ten women that actually had a gun pointed at them," Culp told The Plain Dealer in a 2019 interview.

"The only difference is the gun wasn't loaded. I say, 'The next time it might be.' I never thought that he would do that to me. And look where I am. I'm just lucky that somebody was able to fix me."

Originally published as First US face transplant recipient dies


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