In her senior year of high school, 18-year-old Katie Stubblefield tried to kill herself.
"You take it for granted, the different components of our faces - the bone, the tissue, the muscle, everything - but when it's gone, you recognize the big need", her father, Robb Stubblefield, added. She could feel where her face was swollen.
She was taken to hospital and endured two years worth of operations, undergoing several procedures to fix her bone structure, including her nose, nasal passage and her jaw before receiving her new face from donor Adrea Schneider, 31, who died after a drug overdose. Katie, 22, one year and one month after her surgery. "Life is precious, and life is handsome".
Five weeks after Katie almost died from the gunshot wound, she arrived at the Cleveland Clinic in dire need of reconstructive surgery.
The issue is named The Story Of A Face and relives Katie's nerve-racking fate of getting a face transplant. They took Katie to eat at restaurants despite the looks and comments she'd receive, spent time with her outside and celebrated her birthday.
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According to National Geographic, Katie had to undergo nearly three years of extensive surgeries, emotional agony and then the struggle to embrace her new face.
"We think her story is one of the most important stories that we will do this year", the editor said. As well as helping Katie, Andrea's organs ended up saving the lives of seven other people.
Just over a year later, she received her face transplant, which restored her face structure, her ability to chew, swallow and breathe on her own for the first time since the incident. "I felt awful", Katie said in the interview.
"When my parents helped explain everything to me, I was very excited to get a face again and to have function again", she said.
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"We would do that for anybody, but many of us are parents ourselves and we saw what her own parents were going through".
Ms Stubblefield plans on attending online college soon to pursue a career in counselling and motivational speaking, specifically to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention. "With a grateful heart, I say "thank you" to all who have made this possible for me". "With a new nose, lips, palate, eyelids and jaw, she now has the full opportunity to re-integrate into society and have a future just like any other young adult".
Globally, close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is about one person every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization.
The U.S. has seen an increased rate of suicide in recent years.
As young students across the country fight gun violence by mobilizing their friends, families, and the nation, suicide is part of the conversation as guns are most commonly used to commit suicide.
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