Lilly Ross was “terrified” but “excited” to meet the man who had been given her husband’s face.
Calen “Rudy” Ross had killed himself in 2016, but in death had given a gift to others – his lungs, his kidneys, his face. And although she admitted she probably wasn’t quite ready, Ross braced herself to see a part of her husband that was living on.
“You look really good,” she told Andy Sandness, embracing him like she had known him all her life.
“Thank you so much,” he responded.
As the two sat together in a hospital library, Ross reached out and touched the face that once belonged to her husband.
“I’m going to close my eyes,” Sandness said.
The young widow started to laugh, lightly stroking Sandness’ beard.
“It feels really good,” she said.
The powerful moment was captured on video late last month at the Mayo Clinic.
It was at that hospital where, more than a year ago, Sandness underwent a nearly 60-hour surgery, becoming the clinic’s first face transplant recipient.
Now he was back – meeting his donor’s widow, face-to-face, for the first time.
“When you first do something like this, it’s just a big excitement to finally meet each other just to – I mean, the buildup is just so much,” Sandness said in a video released by the Mayo Clinic. “And then there’s anxiety and pressure.”
Sandness and Calen Ross had numerous things in common.
Both men loved spending time outdoors, hunting and fishing.
Both also struggled with similar thoughts and feelings that ultimately brought them to the same dark place, according to the Associated Press.
In 2006, when Sandness was 21, he put a bullet through his chin, maiming most of his face, according to the AP. The Wyoming native survived.
A decade later, in June 2016, when he, too, was 21, Ross shot and killed himself in Minnesota.
His wife was 19 at the time – and eight months pregnant with their son.
Soon after her husband’s suicide, she was asked by an organization that arranges organ and tissue donations if she might help a stranger who was awaiting a face transplant.
Attempts to repair the damage to Sandness’ face had likely saved his life; but for many years since then, he had been in hiding, left with a mouth no larger than the size of a quarter and nothing more than a prosthetic nose that would often fall from his face, according to the AP.
“I wouldn’t go out in public; I hated …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – News