Society

Wyoming Man Receives 'Miracle' Face Transplant (Photos)

| by Brendan Kelly

Ten years after attempting suicide, a Wyoming man received a life-changing face transplant.

On Dec. 23, 2006, Andy Sandness was feeling "super, super depressed" and felt like he couldn't go on. He attempted to take his own life by shooting himself in the face, according to media reports.

As soon as he pulled the trigger of his rifle, Sandness knew he made the biggest mistake of his life. When police arrived, he begged them: "Please don't let me die! I don't want to die!"

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Doctors from two different hospitals treated him before he arrived at the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Samir Mardini, a plastic surgeon who treated Sandness at the Mayo Clinic, promised he would do the best he could to repair Sandness' face. 

"I just need you to be strong and patient," Mardini told him, People reports.

Over the next several months, Sandness had eight surgeries repair his face. After the incident, he was left with no nose or jaw, and only two teeth. He needed tubes for breathing and eating initially.

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Sandness struggled with going out in public for some time after the incident. He says he avoided eye contact with children as to not scare them and had no social life. When people asked what happened, he would tell them he was in a hunting accident.

"Those were real tough times for him," Reed Sandness, Andy's father, told The Associated Press, according to People.

In 2012, Sandness got a call from Mardini that would change his life. Mardini informed him that the Mayo Clinic was launching a face transplant program and that he might qualify.

While Sandness recognized the serious risks involved, he jumped at the opportunity, asking his doctor, "How long until I can do this?"

"When you look like I looked and you function like I functioned, every little bit of hope that you have, you just jump on it," Sandness told AP, according to Us Weekly. "And this was the surgery that was going to take me back to normal."

After years of evaluation to determine if he was a good candidate for the procedure, Sandness was added to a waiting list for the surgery in January 2016.

Sandness was told he could be waiting up to five years to find the right donor, but five months later, doctors found a perfect match, Us Weekly reports.

The organ donor was 21-year-old Calen 'Rudy' Ross from Minnesota, who shot himself in the head. Ross' wife Lilly, who was 8 months pregnant when he took his own life, carried out her husband's wish to be an organ donor.

Sandness' doctors got right to work on the procedure. A team of 60 surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses worked diligently on the 56-hour-long surgery.

When the procedure was finished, Mardini called it "a miracle."

Sandness was blown away when he saw the results of the surgery. 

"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."

Sources: PeopleUs Weekly / Photo Credit: Sky News via Us Weekly, People, Charlie Neibergall/AP via Us Weekly

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