This woman was the first American to transplant a face. Ten years later, you can’t look at her. I’m on a mission to make sure this doesn’t happen to other women. We live in a vain society where cosmetic procedures are becoming more and more common than ever. Going under the needle to banish your wrinkles or plumping your lips into the perfect Kylie Jenner pout may not seem like a big deal.
However, it’s important to remember plastic surgery always has risks. If you’ve been dabbling with the idea of injecting your face with fillers, you might want to pay attention. We just came across a horrifying picture of a woman’s face melting that might convince you to skip out on the plastic surgery and embrace your natural beauty. One of the reasons God left me here, I think, is so that I can share my cautionary story, so that no other woman has to go through what I’ve gone through. My name is Carol Bryan.
I’m 54. I’ve worked in the Anesthetic medical tree for years and consider myself very informed. I started getting Botox in my late 30s. Just for the eleven lines you get between your eyes. I thought, Why not?
I was very happy I did that. You don’t want to take drastic measures, and this was very subtle. Then in 2009, when I was 47, doctors told me that at my age I should try new fillers, ones that would fill in the volume lost in my forehead and cheekbones. I knew it was safe. But what I didn’t know is that certain fillers are meant for only certain areas.
The FDA now has a definitive list of which cosmetic fillers are approved for which areas, and the risks associated with soft tissue fillers. During my procedure, two different fillers, one of which was silicone, were combined in the same syringe and injected into areas they shouldn’t have been. I had the typical side effects, like bruising and swelling. You expect that so you don’t get alarmed. But three months after the procedure, I was terrified.
There was no sugar coating it. I was told I’d need to have some corrective procedures, which I did. But those procedures just worsen the damage. I never wanted to look at myself. I washed my face without looking.
I brushed my hair without looking. I lived with a hat, a scarf and glasses on. I stopped all social interactions with my friends and family. I pushed most of the people in my life away. I just disappeared.
I stopped answering calls and emails. I hid myself for over three years. I didn’t leave my house. I would just lock myself in my room. That’s when I began a lot of research and soul searching and getting on my knees and praying.
I wanted to believe everything was going to be okay. And I just had to be patient and trust God and trust that the corrective procedures would solve my circumstances. By three months after the procedure, I was terrified of what I looked like, but it was like internal torture. The worst part was the seclusion, and knowing I couldn’t face the world again. That was not something I could wrap my head around.
I felt like a pariah. I didn’t even think I’d survive it. I was planning on taking my own life, but I just wasn’t sure how I was going to continue by secluding myself. Then one day in 2013, my 21 year old daughter walked into my room and said, mum, this is not okay. It’s not going to get better.
This is catastrophic. You can’t fix this on your own. Because of her, I decided I would not give up. She took photos of me and emailed them to all the teaching hospitals in the country begging for help. UCLA is the only one that answered her email.
Reza Jerry, MD, the co director of the UCLA Craniofacial Clinic, was willing to see me. He had tears in his eyes when he asked me to tell him what happened. He said he would help me, even though he didn’t know how he was going to help me. He presented my case to a group of doctors, and one finally offered to help. That was Brian Boyd, MD, a professor of surgery with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
There were risks with the surgeries they were planning, but I had no choice. My only other option was to tell my family to institutionalize me, anesthesize me come and say hi to me once in a while. I knew I could not go out in the world with that face. What had been done to me was so unprecedented that most doctors couldn’t just open a book to find out their options. Jerry started in April 2013 by debulking my forehead.
The foreign material, the fillers from 2009, had hardened and started pulling on tissue, causing the deformities. That first surgery left me blind in one eye because part of the product had dislodged, pressed against the optic nerve and causing loss of blood flow. The next surgery was in October 2013, when Boyd said he was going to remove my foot down to the bone. There’s nothing else we can do, he told me, we’ll find a place on your body to give a sufficient amount of tissue that’s a close match to your skin color. He didn’t want me to look like a patchwork.
That surgery took 17 hours using skin and tissue from my back and was a huge success. But my forehead still protruded out. The next surgery was in December 2013. To bring my forehead down to the level of my bone structure, some areas of my upper forehead turned black. There was necrotic scarring, but it’s near my hairline, so it doesn’t show.
I had two more surgeries in 2014 and another in 2015. The doctors want to do one more surgery, but I feel lucky. I could say, this is enough. I’m not expecting perfection. I know I’ll never look as I did, and I accept that.
If I can’t get to the point where I can walk in the world again and face the world without my glasses, that’s something. I used to be one of those people I used to be one of those people who would look at people who were disfigured, then look away. It was never a disgusted way, but it would hurt my heart, so I’d look away. Losing my own beauty and having to face the world this way and having people look at me and find me offensive makes me want to work tirelessly to make sure this never happens to anyone again. I know I’ll never look as I did, and I accept that.
When I look back at all the pictures from before and after, I remember who I was and who I am now. I feel better now than I ever did before. I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations anymore. As a survivor of this, I’ve become so much stronger and so much wiser. I can help people come out of the darkness when someone goes through this.
They need to hold on to the fact that they’re valuable and need to love themselves. They need the courage to overcome the challenge. Plastic surgery can be dangerous if it’s not been performed by a qualified specialist and varied to appearance or scars. Though these are the risks involved with plastic surgery, if it is carried out by an experienced specialist surgeon, the risks subside. If a surgeon is qualified and experienced in reconstructive surgery, breast craniofacial, cosmetic upper extremity surgery, flaps and pedicals, and microsurgery, the risks reduced to a large extent.
Other shocking case katie Stubblefield was just 18 when she put the barrel of her brother’s 308 caliber hunting rifle below her chin and pulled the trigger. She survived, but the injury resulted in the loss of her face. As a teen, Stubblefield struggled with health issues, problems in her love life, and major family moves. In 2014, during her senior year of high school, her world upended after dealing with the effects of her family relocating for the second time in just a couple of years, chronic gastrointestinal troubles led her to have an appendix and gallbladder removed. A few months later, she and her boyfriend broke up.
Hurt and angry, Stubblefield went over to her brother Robert’s place, went to the bathroom, and used his gun to shoot herself. The series of events is what set Stubblefield on a path to become the youngest ever recipient of a face transplant at 21. Now, she’s featured in the cover story of National Geographic magazine’s September issue entitled The Story of a Face, which details what led to the attempted suicide. She’s also featured in National Geographic’s full length documentary Katie’s Face. Five weeks after the incident, Stubblefield was brought to Cleveland Clinic.
She lost parts of her forehead and her nose and sinuses her mouth, except for the corner of her lips and the bones that make up the jaws and the front of her face. Her eyes remained, but they were badly damaged by engagement, the first clinic doctor deceased doublefield told National Geographic. Her brain was basically exposed, and, I mean, we’re talking seizures and infections and all kinds of problems. Forget the face transplant. We’re talking about just being alive.
Gaston said that in his 27 years of training and practice, this was one of the worst face traumas he’d ever seen. Stubblefield also suffered a traumatic brain injury with damage to her frontal lobe, optic nerve and pituitary gland. Stubblefield doesn’t remember the suicide attempt or any of the surgeries that followed. To help mend her face. Her parents had to tell her what happened, and it shocked her.