A 22-year-old woman who became the youngest person in the US to undergo a face transplant says she finally feels ‘whole again’

Katie Stubblefield. ABC Nightline
  • Katie Stubblefield, 22, underwent a face transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in May 2017.
  • Stubblefield suffered a severe gunshot wound to her face when she attempted suicide in March 2014.
  • Now, a year and a half after her face transplant, Stubblefield said she finally feels “whole again.”

The youngest person in the United States to undergo a face transplant said she finally feels “whole again,” a year and a half after undergoing the 31-hour life-changing surgery.

Katie Stubblefield, a 22-year-old from Mississippi, said in an interview with ABC’s “Nightline” that people now see her as “another person and not as some kind of monster.”

Stubblefield attempted suicide in March 2014, when she was 18, after facing a series of hurdles including a breakup with her boyfriend and surgery for gastrointestinal problems. Her brother found her with a gunshot wound to her face that left her severely disfigured.

She spent years jumping from hospital to hospital until she was selected to undergo a face transplant at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic in May 2017.

“I wanted my face back, and I was willing to do whatever it took to get my face back,” she told “Nightline.” “When I touch my face now with my hand, I feel whole again.”

The 31-hour surgery included transplanting the scalp, the forehead, the upper and lower eyelids, the eye sockets, the nose, the upper cheeks, the upper jaw and half of the lower jaw, the upper and lower teeth, partial facial nerves, facial muscles, and skin, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

And now, years after her suicide attempt, Stubblefield can finally chew, swallow, and breathe on her own again.

She still doesn’t have her full vision back and is soon having a procedure to get a new palate, which will improve her speech.

Earlier this year, Stubblefield was featured on the cover of National Geographic’s September issue for an article called “The Story of a Face.”

Stubblefield told National Geographic that she hopes to attend college and perhaps pursue a career in counseling, in which she could speak to teenagers about the value of life.

“I really, truly want to help everything in any possible way that I can,” she told “Nightline.” “Life is an amazing gift. Life’s beautiful. … Find someone to talk to, someone who will listen to you, because life is a wonderful gift.”

Her interview came just a week after it was revealed that a 65-year-old Canadian man named Maurice Desjardins became the oldest person to receive a face transplant this past May, after a hunting accident damaged his face.