You won’t believe what just happened in Minnesota

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A woman met the man who received a face transplant from her husband, who committed suicide last year.

Lilly Ross had to endure the loss of her husband a year ago after he killed himself, but she would once again see his face. Ross actually put her hand on her husband’s face recently, which now belonged to Andy Sandness, as the two met for the first time in a hospital library in Minnesota.

Calen Ross donated his lungs, kidneys, and face after his death. Lilly Ross told Sandness that he looked “really good” at their meeting as she reached out and touched the face she once knew as her husband’s. Sandness underwent a 60-hour surgery to become the Mayo Clinic’s first transplant recipient.

“When you first do something like this, it’s just a big excitement to finally meet each other just to — I mean, the buildup is just so much,” Sandness said in a Mayo Clinic video. “And then there’s anxiety and pressure.” The video is embedded at the bottom of this post.

The Mayo Clinic posted the following statement on their website.

“Thank you so much.” It is a heartfelt message Andy Sandness has been eager to deliver personally ever since becoming Mayo Clinic’s first face transplant recipient in 2016. His opportunity finally arrived recently, when he met the widow of his donor, Lilly Ross. She was every bit as eager to see and hear for herself the difference her late husband’s gift was able to make in Sandness’ life.

Reporter Dennis Douda and videographer Andy Shilts were there for the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Sandness has started a trust fund in honor of his donor to benefit Rudy and Lilly Ross’ son, Leonard. He and Lilly also hope to help raise awareness about two causes that are important to them: organ donation and suicide prevention.

The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia on face transplants.

A face transplant is a medical procedure to replace all or part of a person’s face using tissue from a cadaver. The world’s first partial face transplant on a living human was carried out in France in 2005. The world’s first full face transplant was completed in Spain in 2010.[1] Turkey,[2] France, the United States and Spain (in order of total number of successful face transplants performed) are considered the leading countries in the research into the procedure.

In June 2016, a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, physicians and other health professionals completed a near-total face transplant at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus. Patient Andrew Sandness, a 32-year-old from eastern Wyoming, had devastating facial injuries from a gunshot wound in 2006. The surgery, which spanned more than 50 hours, restored Sandness’ nose, upper and lower jaw, palate, teeth, cheeks, facial muscles, oral mucosa, some of the salivary glands and the skin of his face (from below the eyelids to the neck and from ear to ear). The care team lead by Samir Mardini, M.D., and Hatem Amer, M.D., the surgical director and medical director, respectively, for the Mayo Clinic Essam and Dalal Obaid Center for Reconstructive Transplant Surgery, devoted more than 50 Saturdays over 3½ years to rehearsing the surgery, using sets of cadaver heads to transplant the face of one to the other. They used 3-D imaging and virtual surgery to plot out the bony cuts so the donor’s face would fit perfectly on the transplant recipient. Today, in addition to his dramatic physical transformation, Sandness can smell again, breathe normally and eat foods that were off-limits for a decade.

The first full face transplant performed in the US was done on a construction worker named Dallas Wiens in March 2011. He was burned in an electrical accident in 2008. This operation, performed by Dr. Bohdan Pomahač and Dr. Jeffrey Janis,[42] was paid for with the help of the US defense department. They hope to learn from this procedure and use what they learn to help soldiers suffering from facial injuries.[43] One of the top benefits of the surgery was that Dallas has regained his sense of smell.[44]

The second full face transplant was done on a Vet named Mitch Hunter in April 2011, less than one month after the hospital performed the first full face transplant in the country, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital face transplant team, led by MUDr. Bohdan Pomahač, performed the nation’s second full face transplant on patient Mitch Hunter of Speedway, Indiana. It was the third face transplant procedure to be performed at BWH and the fourth face transplant in the country. The team of more than 30 physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists and residents worked for more than 14 hours to replace the full facial area of patient Mitch Hunter, 30, of Indiana, including the nose, eyelids, muscles of facial animation and the nerves that power them and provide sensation.

Wanda B. Hewlett

Wanda B. Hewlett (Contributor) is a freelance writer from the UK. When she’s not busy writing she loves to spend her time traveling, exploring and running.

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