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A 'Huge Endeavor': Mayo Doctor Talks Face Transplant Surgery

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Mayo Clinic doctor is sharing the story of a remarkable face transplant done last summer.

Andy Sandness tried to kill himself in 2006 at the age of 21. The attempt failed, leaving him with most of his face destroyed.

"The mouth was open to the outside," said Dr. Samir Mardini, a surgeon at Mayo Clinic.


He told WCCO's Roshini Rajkumar the hospital reached out to Sandness in 2012, asking if he'd be interested in a face transplant, calling it a risky and complicated procedure.

"It's a huge endeavor, and you don't want the patient to wake up and not know what's coming next," he said.

Sandness was on a waiting list, expecting it to take years, but just months later, after a Minnesota man committed suicide, they had a donor.

During the 56 hour surgery, the 60-person team was able to transplant the donor's nose, cheeks, mouth, lips, and chin onto Sandness.


Now, Sandness is enjoying his new face...and his new teeth.

"He hadn't had teeth in 10 years," Mardini said. "It's been a huge deal for him. Being able to chew a steak, he hasn't been able to do that in years."

Beside teeth, he now can taste, breathe and smell as he could before the surgery. The doctor says he's finally enjoying being able to blend into the crowd.

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