2 Men Attempt Suicide 10 Years Apart—Only 1 Succeeded. Now the Survivor is Wearing His Face.
32-year-old undergoes successful face transplant thanks to 3D printing and the Mayo Clinic, God bless these marvelous surgeons!
This man got extremely lucky twice!
People don’t try to kill themselves for fun. Mental illness is an illness. Whatever his reasons were back then, it seems like he’s moved on from that and is ready for another chance at life. And now he won’t be reminded of his mistake every day – so that’s a good thing. Cheer up people and let us try to be happy for another human being.
Second chances are amazing and he’s received such a wonderful second chance. He might have been lost or have given up in the past, but his story now has purpose and his influence to change others’ lives in a positive way is greater. He’s overcome so much from the mind to body. We can all focus on the negative OR we can be grateful that just one more story that started out tragically turned into a positive one.
He has a new face, one that once belonged to another man.
Resting in his hospital bed, he couldn’t speak clearly, but he had something to say. He scrawled four words in a spiral notebook: “Far exceeded my expectations.”It was two days before Christmas in 2006 when Andy Sandness hit breaking point. He’d been drinking too much, and he grabbed a rifle and attempted to end his life.
Instantly, he knew he’d made a terrible mistake.
When the police arrived, an officer who was a friend cradled him in his arms as Sandness begged, “Please, please don’t let me die! I don’t want to die!”
When he woke, his mother was holding his hand. She’d always been a strong woman but that day, her face was a portrait of pain. The bullet had obliterated his mouth, so he motioned for a pen and paper.
“I’m sorry,” he wrote.
“I love you,” she replied. “It’s OK.”
But all he could think about was how he’d hurt his family — and what was next.
The answer came quickly when he met Dr. Samir Mardini, a plastic surgeon whose specialty is facial reconstruction. He reassured Sandness he’d do his best. However, Sandness’ face was shattered.
He had no nose, no jaw, and only two teeth, and his lips almost gone. He’d lost some vision in his left eye, and initially needed breathing and feeding tubes. His entire face is nearly gone.
All he needed was a donor, a 21-year-old Calen ‘Rudy’ Ross from Fula, Minnesota, had fatally shot himself in the head. He and his 19-year-old wife, Lily, were newly married, and she was eight months pregnant with their child. Calen had been an organ donor—as indicated on his driver’s license—and being a young and healthy 21-year-old, his heart, lungs, liver and kidneys were donated.
When approached about the donation, Lily admits she was skeptical at first. “I didn’t want to walk around and all of a sudden see the face of my late husband Calen.”
Doctors reassured her that the transplant receiver would not be recognizable as her husband, and extensive tests confirmed that Calen and Andy were a great match. Dr. Mardini said that doctors were stunned to see how close the two men were in hair and skin color, and just their overall appearance. “It could be his cousin.”
A medical team from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota successfully completed a facial transplant for the 32-year-old patient Andrew Sandness. The incredibly complex procedure, which required over 50 hours of surgery, was made possible in part thanks to 3D printing technologies, which were used to produce 3D models and surgical guides.
Sandness underwent a near-total facial transplant which has changed his life for the better. As he remarked,
“I am absolutely amazed at the outcome so far. I am now able to chew and eat normal food, and the nerve sensation is slowly improving, too. My confidence has improved, and I’m feeling great―and grateful.”
Of course, in addition to the doctors and technology that helped along the way, Sandness is forever grateful to his donor.
“I am so thankful to my donor and the donor’s family, and to all of the people who have supported me throughout this process,” he commented.
After the surgery ended, Mardini proclaimed it “a miracle.”
“Once you lose something that you’ve had forever, you know what it’s like not to have it,” Sandness said. “And once you get a second chance to have it back, you never forget it.”
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