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Inside Mayo: Another Face in the Crowd

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (KTTC) – Two years ago, a first-of-its kind surgery took place at Mayo Clinic.

Mayo Clinic’s first face transplant recipient, Andy Sandness

A surgery that was so complex, it took surgeons and team members nearly three years to plan and practice.

One man was the recipient of all the work.

Andy Sandness is Mayo Clinic’s first face transplant recipient. A failed suicide attempt in 2006 destroyed his face. For years, the Wyoming man endured many surgeries at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Skin grafts. Scars. Dental implants.

Still, he looked deformed.

Dr. Samir Mardini and his team were the ones to give Andy his new look

And then, in 2016, after three years of planning, Dr. Samir Mardini and a team of dozens from Mayo devised a way to give Andy a new face.

The surgery took 56 hours. “I can’t say enough good things about what they brought me in my life,” Andy says.

It was a transplant that led to a transformed life. He no longer got awkward stares from strangers or frightened children.

“Little kids would see me and get scared,” Andy says, “And grab their moms and ask what’s happened to his face?”

But Andy is not out of the woods. He’ll be taking immunosuppressants for the rest of his life to reduce the risk of his body rejecting the transplanted face.

It’s the price he pays for a brighter future. He has plans to marry his girlfriend, and he wants to bring a message of hope to others: you are not defined to your past mistakes.

RELATED: Inside Mayo: Practice Makes Perfect

Tom Overlie

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