Wyoming man gets face transplant at Mayo Clinic

 Andy Sandness (courtesy: Mayo Clinic)
Andy Sandness (courtesy: Mayo Clinic) (KGWN)
Published: Feb. 17, 2017 at 11:13 AM CST
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An eastern Wyoming man will be heading back home soon, after receiving the first face transplant performed at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Andrew Sandness, 32, is from the small town of Newcastle. When he was 21-years old he was disfigured in a suicide attempt. After surviving a shot to the face, his recovery began with years of multiple reconstructive surgeries.

"There are no words to express just how grateful I am for this gift,” says Sandness.

Now, after a 56-hour operation, he has the face of another man who passed away from a similar suicide attempt. A multidisciplinary team of surgeons, physicians and other health professionals completed a near-total face transplant. They were able to reconstruct a face from the nose, cheeks, mouth, lips, jaw, chin, and teeth of his donor.

“I am absolutely amazed at the outcome so far,” says Sandness. “I am now able to chew and eat normal food, and the nerve sensation is slowly improving, too. My confidence has improved, and I’m feeling great ― and grateful. I am so thankful to my donor and the donor’s family, and to all of the people who have supported me throughout this process.”

“This is an extraordinary example of the teamwork, collaboration and compassion that we provide,” says Samir Mardini, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of Mayo Clinic's Essam and Dalal Obaid Center for Reconstructive Transplant Surgery.

Doctors say Andy is doing well and should be able to return home to Wyoming.

“It sank in that I’m finally normal again," Andy Sandness says, after the simple act of stepping into an elevator and blending in for the first time in more than a decade. "It felt awesome."

To learn more about Andy and the face transplant, head to: http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/hubcap/mayo-clinic-anounces-first-face-transplant/