The recipient of America's first near-total face transplant finally got to meet the family of the woman whose face she received. It was, not surprisingly, emotional.
Meetings between the beneficiaries of organ donation and the donor's families have always been highly-charged. Face transplants, however, are a new frontier: the physical evidence of the gift is literally in the room, which must surely make for a very special dynamic. And a moving one.
When 45-year-old Anna Kasper died of a heart attack in 2008, her family knew the organ donor would have wanted to give her face for a transplant — especially knowing Connie Kulp's circustances. Says Cleveland.com,
After her common-law husband shot her in 2004, Connie was so disfigured, children ran from her and called her a monster. Her nose was missing. So was her right eye, her lower eyelids, her upper lip, her top teeth. She had to breathe through a hole in her throat and eat through a tube. Most of her vision was gone. On Dec. 10, 2008, surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic spent 23 hours removing skin and muscle, veins and arteries, teeth and bone from Anna and sewing them onto what remained of Connie Culp's face, surgery that changed her life. Connie, 47, has been thanking her donor from the moment she stepped out on the public stage in 2009, never able to name her because she didn't know who she was.
Kasper's family finally made the decision to finally meet Culp this past week. And, says her widower,
Connie's like Anna in a lot of ways, as far as her personality and how much she enjoys life and how she smiles and is still able to have such a great attitude after everything she's been through and she takes everything in stride. She's a very special person. And Anna was, too.
Says Culp, "They're just really nice people. It's awesome, how much we have in common."
Because of the difference in bone structure, there's not a strong resemblance, but, says Anna's daughter, "But I can definitely see the resemblance in the nose...I know she's smiling down on this, that she's very happy."