A moment of acute despair and a foggy mind, coupled with the rashness of youth, can lead a person to make a mistake he can regret for the rest of his life. This young, depressed man nearly takes his life, but then miraculously, the doctors work their wonders…
Today, after 10 years of struggling to gain back his life, Andy Sandness is a different man. Andy was going through very difficult times and went into deep depression in his early twenties. That is when this handsome young man from the small town of Newcastle, Wyoming, attempted to take his own life. All that he was left with, after that unfortunate incident, was a highly disfigured face that made it impossible for him to carry on with a normal social life.
But then, Andy was fortunate enough to have undergone one of the most successful face transplants ever. The doctors at Mayo’s Clinic are happy and proud of their achievement, and of being able to give Andy a brand-new face and a brand-new life.
“I just remember putting one in the chamber and looking down the barrel of the gun and I said ‘ah, #$@! it’ and pulled the trigger,” said Andy in Mayo Clinic’s video below. “I was going through some rough times, ya know, I mean I made the wrong choices,” he added.
Andy was extremely fortunate to have survived the gunshot wound, but he was severely injured and immediately sent to the emergency room of a nearby hospital.
The gunshot had totally destroyed large portions of his lower face, including his jaw, teeth, chin, and nose. Sadly, Andy’s father cannot forget the day, and can recall it in great detail, as if it had happened just yesterday.
“The only thing I got to see was him coming out of the emergency room with his head, with gauze wrapped around, with a straw coming out to breathe in,” said his father, Reed Sandness.
The entire lower portion of Andy’s face was blown off, but fortunately, he was still able to breathe and speak.
Amid social ridicule and the hard times he faced, coming to terms with his fate, Andy and his family continued to wait for news concerning his eligibility for a face transplant. He desperately wanted to regain his past life and be able to have a normal face, both aesthetically and functionally, and “get good stares as opposed to bad stares,” as Andy put it.
Although Andy was happy he had survived his rash action, he was regretful of his foolish decision and was getting desperate day by day. The rubber nose he wore in the meantime would fall off and could get him extremely frustrated. He wondered whether he would ever be able to regain his past life.
Finally, they received the good news when specialists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, thoroughly investigated Andy’s case. They finally confirmed that he may be considered as an appropriate candidate for a face transplant.
They now had to wait for a face donor.
It was in early 2016 when they finally were informed of a potential face donor. It was Calen Ross—the face organ donor who would give him a new lease to life. After a team of 60 surgeons and nurses worked hard in the operating theater for more than 56 hours at his transplant surgery, Andy and his family were informed of a successful surgery and a bright chance of him having a second face.
“Everybody went into this totally knowing their role, knowing what to expect. Every step has been thought out 1,000 times,” said head surgeon Dr. Samir Mardini. The incredibly complicated surgery ended up very well.
After nearly a year of surgery and continuous follow-ups, this is how he looks now. It is hard to detect the earlier, disfigured Andy through this new, beautiful face. Except for the scar just under his eye level, you would not believe this was the same Andy.
After all that the doctors did for him, Andy had no words to describe how he felt. He was at a loss at how to express his gratitude. So, just after the surgery, Andy handed his doctors a handwritten note saying “Far exceeded my expectations.”
Andy himself is at most times surprised to see the new him. Andy stares at his new face in awe, along with his physical therapist, Helga Smars.
There’s still a lot that needs to be done, so Andy regularly meets up with the doctors at the Mayo Clinic for follow-ups. But, as you can see, he is surely recovering extremely well. Way beyond his expectations, as he put it.
He became aware of the drastic change in his looks when, for the first time in years, a child met him in the elevator and didn’t react in a negative way upon seeing him.
He says, “I knew then, that the surgery was a success.” Gaining back his normal social life and getting to interact with people again means a lot to Andy.
The video segment from the Mayo Clinic gives clear details of Andy’s incredibly successful facial surgery and his transformed life.