Andy Sandness was only 21 years old when he tried to commit suicide almost ten years ago. Several days before Christmas, in 2006, overcome by negative emotions, the man grabbed a firearm from his closet, went outside, placed the gun under his chin, and pulled the trigger. Now, he says he instantly regretted that decision. When first responders arrived on the scene, they discovered the man without a face crying for help as he was repeatedly saying he wanted to live on.
Miraculously, Andy Sandness survived the suicide attempt. However, he was left without a face, as the bullet traveling through his skull shattered everything in its path. In the summer of 2016, a team of 60 surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses came together for a 56-hour-long surgery at the Mayo Clinic in an effort to give the man a new face. The face transplant – a first for the clinic – included the jaw, nose, chin, mouth, teeth, and cheeks and came from a donor roughly the same age as him who also tried to kill himself.
Only two days before Christmas, Andy couldn’t put up with his emotions any longer and decided to take his own life. A hunting enthusiast, he already had a permit and a rifle at home which he used in the attempted suicide. Luckily for him, though, the bullet missed his brain and he was able to survive the horrific incident. Emergency responders rushed him from his home in Newcastle Wyoming to the hospital. After being admitted to two health facilities and treated for his injuries over the course of several months, the man finally arrived at the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Samir Mardini, a plastic surgeon assessed the damage and told his patient he would do everything is his power to reconstruct his face as best he could.
Initially, doctors expected the man would have to wait for at least five years to receive the rarest type of transplant there is. However, Andy received the call informing him a donor was found only five months after being placed on the waiting list.
The donor, Calen Ross, shot himself in the head and left behind an eight-month pregnant widow. At first, Lily, Ross’ widow was skeptical and said she didn’t want to see her dead husband’s face walking down the street should the transplant succeed. However, doctors worked around Andy’s own forehead and eyes and managed to give him his old appearance back.
Three months after the surgery, Andy says he is planning to become an electrician and hopefully marry and have a family of his own.
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