ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – A message of hope Thursday, from a man whose struggle, could change the way the world looks at mental health. Andy Sandness – the first face transplant recipient at Mayo Clinic – shared his journey at Mayo Clinic’s annual conference, Transfrom 2019.
It hasn’t been an easy road.
“I’ve worked extremely hard to be where I’m at today,” Sandness told the crowd. “I just plan on continuing my life and living it the best that Ican and helping people along the way.”
But Sandness says it’s been a journey worth while.
“When you talk to Andy and you get to know him you feel like its someone who understands and someone who you want to give a second chance to,” Mayo Clinic Doctor Samir Mardini said.
It’s been more than a decade, since Andy attempted to take his own life.
“Please don’t let me die, I don’t want to die,” Sandness recounts. “In that moment I woke up and thought thank god I’m alive. Thank God I’m okay”
It’s been nearly three years since he’s truly received, his second chance.
“You live how I live, and you just have this, you want this hope,” Sandness said. “Hope that things are going to get better, hope that you can change yourself. And to me, this was the answer.”
Now, as the first face transplant recipient at Mayo Clinic, Andy speaks with a message of hope.
“When i first saw it I will never forget it, the first thing I said was wow,” Sandness said, remembering the first time he looked into a mirror with his new face.
Sandness share his story with a perspective from the other side.
“It was hard, it was up, it was down,” Sandness said. “I was just thankful that I had my support network there.”
“Mental health is just health,” Mayo Clinic Doctor Sheila Jowsey-Gregoire said. “It’s your body it’s part of your body. Your brain is a part of your body.”
And a chance to break the stigma.
“You’ve changed a lot of people’s lives and you are the perfect story of second chances and hope,” Dr. Mardini said.
“I regret it and I hate the word regret more anything, but I did it, here I am on stage and if I can just help one person to reach out to somebody, that’s it, that’s all I ask,” Sandness said.
Sandness adds that he is thankful for the donor and his family, as well as his own support system and Mayo Clinic family for going through the ups and downs along side him.