At 21, Woman Is Youngest Ever to Undergo Face Transplant After Attempting Suicide as a Teen

National Geographic
Martin Schoeller

Katie Stubblefield's story is the center of a new National Geographic documentary.

A young woman has been given a second chance at life after undergoing a face transplant. 

Katie Stubblefield's face was gravely injured when she shot herself in a suicide attempt when she was 18 in 2014. She rarely went out in public except to see doctors. 

Now, a National Geographic documentary, “Katie's Face," follows her step by step as she received face transplant in an extraordinary 31 hours of delicate surgery at the Cleveland Clinic last year when she was 21.

Stubblefield's ordeal is also the cover story of National Geographic's September issue with the feature "Story of a Face."

There are still months of slow healing and painful therapy ahead. A year after the surgery, however, she's ready to go back out into the world.

Now 22, Stubblefield admits that when she was first told about a face transplant, she had no idea the procedure even existed. 

When my parents helped explain everything to me, I was very excited to get a face again and to have function again," she said.