CLEVELAND-– A very special Cleveland homecoming, of sorts, for a woman who is the youngest recipient of a face transplant in the country.
It was an emotional reunion two years in the making for 23-year old face transplant patient Katie Stubblefield and the MetroHealth therapists who played an instrumental role in the surgery’s success.
Katie’s mom, Alesia Stubblefield said, "When we came here, I think even after we got here, even the therapists were probably wondering what have we gotten ourselves into."
Katie was just 18-years old when she tried to take her own life in 2014…shooting herself in the face with her brother’s hunting rifle after breaking up with a boyfriend.
Last year, Katie spoke with FOX 8 about her long road to recovery and her message that suicide is never the answer.
Katie said, "I don't understand at all why I would ever do something like that."
Prior to her surgery, occupational and physical therapy was mandatory in order to undergo the ground-breaking procedure.
For two years, MetroHealth became the Stubblefield's second home, coming here two to three times a week, several hours a day, preparing her for the biggest surgery of her life.
Occupational therapist Liz Galvin said, "When she first came in, she was sitting on the side of the mat and couldn't sit up by herself. So she had to learn to use those core muscles again, use her right hand again, to feed herself."
Also learning how to move her new facial muscles, almost 100% from a donor.
While Katie’s injuries still make it difficult for her to communicate, she’s hoping that too will soon change.
Another surgery is scheduled next month to help her speak clearly again…ultimately giving her a second chance to live life to the fullest.
Father Robb Stubblefield adds, "Life is very precious. Life is valuable. And as we've told others before, don't choose permanent solutions to temporary problems."