US's youngest face transplant recipient shares story of suicide survival, hope

Katie Stubblefield was 21 when she underwent a face transplant after a suicide attempt left her face disfigured. She now sees her life as a cautionary tale for preventing suicide.
10:24 | 10/02/18

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Transcript for US's youngest face transplant recipient shares story of suicide survival, hope
Everyone's like. Sunny very windy and. How right was her future. Had seventeen points today. Scotland. And that's when she missed. She was and is driven from driven sake she was driven for a purpose. Lisa and rom Stubblefield say their daughter was a perfectionist. A straight a student and promising athlete they score bulldozer. But that drive pushing Katie like so many teenagers could also prove talk. Well she is getting ready go to college says who's deciding where it's ago. And and stressed there is vessel but college never happens when Cheney's life. Flipped upside down after a failed suicide time. It letter to become the youngest face transplant recipient in the US you know everybody says you know you don't know much how much you appreciate life and Tia was loses. Katie was struggling with her health after an appendectomy. In the midst of a stressful senior years her parents lost their jobs teaching in her high school in Mississippi. How you're losing your job at the school that she's. A factor I think really with Katie she absorbed. And it in hitter deeply because I was a teacher Katie parents say it became a perfect storm on that spring day four years ago when her boyfriend broke up with her kitty was heartbroken 20 yeah art specialist. But yes she is very heartbroken and angry and upset Katie leave school early and drives to her older brother Robert's house. What do you what do you do at home from school so you know I'd call my parents say hey just so you know she's at my house right now. While Roberts outside Haiti in an impulsive teenage instant takes his hunting rifle into the bathroom puts it under her chin and pulls the trigger. At that Mauresmo gunpowder. And I knew exactly at that point. Wouldn't happen she is dead as far as I was concern first responders nation's future. They did in their and the next thing we create here through chain of voices is. She's alive in their homes. Just like that the whole world turned on the dime TDs rushed to the ER and somehow manages to mumbled words of regret and an apology. When choosing that he argued that the triage. She's had come on mom and a lot of around the world mobs our heads high she was able to speak had a ten lot of strain of not knowing if she would make it doctors begin reconstructing Katie disfigured face. And there was a season trauma guy. Surgeon so he said this is the worst one I've ever seen I think the only thing that would give her any kind of life again we'll be a face transplant as a first time are we never heard that term. After a month it'd trauma hospital in Memphis Katie is transfered to the illustrious Cleveland clinic complicated surgery complicated coordination overseeing all her care doctor Brian gas meant. She was willing to do whatever it take to fight for her life to fight for her life not just to be alive but the literally. There has been dark history of suicide. Or a suicide attempt in this case and that must've made her controversy okay. Being 1718. Years old without any history of depression with having to have a fee only support that she has. It seemed that she ages did something impulsive. To devote themselves to her care Katie and her family moved into the Ronald McDonald house in 2014. Facing a long road. National Geographic began documenting the stubble field story for the cover of their September issue. Are getting ready for Kay's face transplant. You can either a third person pounds of got here. We're about this are you kidding. Brick engraved on his. Haiti's journey begins with more than seventeen surgeries they even make a model of her sisters John to help with reconstruction. Katie was missing. All of this call here it's incredible. Katie could have settled on a reconstructed face but she wanted more waiting on word for a donor face real. I want the race to you all while knowing that day may never come. She didn't just wanna face that she wanna function as she when entering life she wants life that but in May 2017. After a year on the transplant list. A potential donor. Her name. Adrian Schneider a 31 year old single mom who'd struggled with addiction and died of an overdose AJ have been raised by her grandmother Sandra. Who now had a profound decision to make which she consented this unusual gift. It's a Treo loyalists willing to donate her organs. You know why would she need to face. You know I still wrestle with that every now and I thought about it prayed about it. This is the right thing to do so someone else can have. Maybe in a better lives. Eads the day of the surgery. He. Few. Line. Cameras are rolling as Katie says goodbye to her family and barking into the unknown. Prayer. Hank Levy. That's ten planner. The planned thirty hour surgery is for I'm partial transplant but almost 24 hours into the marathon procedure from a plan B begins to emerge maybe they could perform a full facial transplants. Doctor guest conduct prepay came to us since that this is were wrapped. And we're gonna start here. But now we are at the place to where we are expanding the tissue. To where we're here. And his sister Katie go in Robin and Lisa must decide if they're willing to increase the risk of rejection infections even death. To give Katie a full face transplant. For more than we think what she wants. I think your life sentences. Yeah there live their lives each. So they go forth after 31 hours on the table with intricate nerve endings and blood vessels restored Katie finally has her new. Fool thing. Now more than a grueling year for rehab after the surgery he Katie still has a long way to go. And we're all blue. I don't know. Haul approach this in you know Katie is still adjusting to life with a new nose new lips and a new outlook the things most of us take for granted. I'll. The now 22 year old still doesn't have her vision back but she says it's improving. Thing. You can see shadows is well. Four years after first arriving in Cleveland Katie and her family still live at the Ronald McDonald house. Her parents overseeing everything from therapy to her anti rejection medications. This is the coolest stuff and and it's clear she never lost her lesson. What makes Katie Katie. A squeeze tight she still must undergo more procedures including getting a new palette which will enable her to improve for speech. Bug. What and her ability to land a punch line finance. And they edited version. Here kick. When I first met Katie last month she had just been taken to the ER the health risks ever present. European remember hitting. Haiti's feeding tube had popped out leaving her with a painful wound on her side. And doctor gast been right there has always doting on his patience with his. What is it that draws you into her. You know. We have a daughter that age. You realize what's going on their lives college. Maybe if he and I was hoping. You know so much that I could actually try to get her back some level track like unlawful OK let's. The extensive costs well over a million dollars in total mostly covered by the Defense Department. But she's not just helping future wounded warriors she's also honoring her donor. Katie insisting on thinking AG is grandmother in person. I see address. How are you. You can look beautiful. And Hulu. Com. Martin I'm wounds it's your gifts. Katie now sees her life as a lesson for others about preventing suicide. While phone blue. Balloons wound. I was boo to you hope for down there how and that's when my arm. How he goes oh and her flute. Me a lot from. Arnold. Our boom arm wound to work here. I but her arms control won't won't he lose out when Luke warm hearth wound. She can now blend into that crowd to enjoy life's simple pleasures. I I'm garbage. Yeah.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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