The Cleveland Clinic announced her death on Twitter, calling her a “pioneer.” Her decision to undergo the first face transplant in history was “an enduring gift for all humanity.”
“Connie was an incredibly brave, vibrant woman and an inspiration to many,” said Frank Papay, M.D., chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Dermatology and plastic surgery institute. “Her strength was evident in the fact that she had been the longest-living face transplant patient to date. She was a great pioneer and her decision to undergo a sometimes-daunting procedure is an enduring gift for all of humanity.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Connie Culp’s Husband Shot Her in 2004 & She Survived to Become the First Face Transplant Recipient in History
We are saddened by the loss of Connie Culp, the first face transplant recipient in the U.S.
She was an inspiration to all of us at Cleveland Clinic. pic.twitter.com/gvuJCzf7Jd
— ClevelandClinicNews (@CleClinicNews) July 31, 2020
Connie Culp’s husband, Thomas, shot her before turning the gun on himself in a brutal act of domestic violence. Both Culp and her husband survived, and he was sent to prison for seven years, NBC reported. Culp first arrived at the Cleveland Clinic for plastic surgery in 2004. Frank Papay, M.D., chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Dermatology and plastic surgery institute, described her as a brave woman and “pioneer” who provided “an enduring gift for all humanity.”
“Connie was an incredibly brave, vibrant woman and an inspiration to many,” Papay said. “Her strength was evident in the fact that she had been the longest-living face transplant patient to date. She was a great pioneer and her decision to undergo a sometimes-daunting procedure is an enduring gift for all of humanity.”
It would be four years after the shooting that Culp would receive the groundbreaking surgery. In 2008, doctors began a 22-hour procedure to replace 80 percent of Culp’s face. The donor was deceased. Culp had already undergone nearly 30 other corrective surgeries before the face transplant, NBC reported.
Connie Culp Met the Daughter of the Donor Who Gave Her a New Face
Several years after Connie Culp became the first person to receive a face transplant, she met the daughter of the deceased donor. Anna Kasper died of a heart attack at age 44 two weeks before Christmas. Culp met her daughter, Becky Kasper, several years after the surgery. The encounter was caught on video by ABC News.
“I’m so glad you did this for me,” Culp said. “What do you say? I mean, thank you’s not strong enough, you know.”
Anna Kasper’s husband, Ronald Kasper, also spoke to ABC News about the woman whose face gave Culp a new lease on life.
“She was my wife. She was my friend,” he said. “We miss her dearly.”
Anna and Ronald Kasper were married for 20 years.
Becky Kasper told ABC News that it gave her comfort knowing her mother’s untimely death helped others.
“Grieving is hard and it’s really hard when you lose someone that you love,” she said. “But you really can find so much comfort in knowing that they’re helping someone else. It helps a lot. It really does.”
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