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(WJW) — Connie Culp, the woman who underwent the first near-total face transplant in the United States at the Cleveland Clinic, has died.

The Clinic confirmed the sad news to FOX 8 Thursday evening.

Frank Papay, M.D., chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, released the following statement:

 “Connie was an incredibly brave, vibrant woman and an inspiration to many. Her strength was evident in the fact that she had been the longest-living face transplant patient to date. She was a great pioneer and her decision to undergo a sometimes-daunting procedure is an enduring gift for all of humanity.” 

Dr. Papay was part of Connie’s surgical team, and has led her care since she first came to the Cleveland Clinic more than 12 years ago.

In 2008, doctors at the Clinic performed the initial 22-hour procedure on Culp, who suffered severe facial injuries from a gunshot to the face.

Culp, of Hopedale, Ohio, showed her new face in 2009.

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