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1st U.S. face transplant has last surgery

  |   Aug. 27, 2010 at 1:05 PM
CLEVELAND, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- The first U.S. face transplant recipient has had a final surgery, the last of 30 procedures to rebuild her skull and give her a reason to smile, doctors say.

Connie Culp, whose face was destroyed by a shotgun blast in 2004, had a final facial surgery in July, ABC News reported Thursday.

Culp, 57, lost her face when her husband shot her with shotgun in a failed murder-suicide attempt.

She underwent the initial transplant procedure, one of only two in the United States and just 12 worldwide, in December 2008.

In the final surgery in July, a team of five surgeons worked for 4 hours at the Cleveland Clinic, tightening Culp's face and removing extra skin that hung from her cheeks and chin after the transplant surgery.

The donor's family has asked to remain anonymous, so Culp only knows her face came from a woman about her own age, she says.

Doctors say Culp has made an astounding recovery.

"This is amazing both technically, surgically, but also philosophically. The face of someone else is being adopted and accepted by the face of the recipient," Dr. Maria Siemionow, the Cleveland Clinic surgeon who led the transplant team, said.

"You can see a live person who is happy her life is back."

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