It’s been ten years since Andy Sandness tried to take his own life; however, he survived his attempt, which left him severely scarred after shooting himself in the face. For years Andy had to live with the fact that he had not only attempted suicide, but also had to endure an existence with a severely disfigured face. After the incident, Sandness had a new battle to face: depression, and the inability to look at himself in the mirror. With only two teeth, no nose, and no jaw, Sandness avoided public places due to the constant stares of others and the fearfulness of children who recoiled when they saw his disfigurement. That all changed in the spring of 2012 when Dr. Mardini, from the Mayo Clinic called Sandness to tell him about a new face transplant program. Mardini told Sandness that he thought the young man would be a perfect candidate. The program would require rigorous testing and evaluation to qualify, all of which Sandness passed with flying colors.
Now with the green light, Sandness underwent one of the most complicated and astonishing transplants in recent history: a full facial transplant. Shortly after the procedure, while still sitting in recovery and unable to speak, Andy Sandness scribbled something on a notepad and handed it to Dr. Mardini: “Far exceeded my expectations,” the note read. Of course Sandness has months of recovery ahead of him as his facial tissue and muscles grow together, but for now, he feels like “just another face in the crowd.” He recalls the moment he realized that the transplant was a success. The moment occurred during an elevator ride, when a small child quickly glanced over at Sandness, and without hesitation, looked right back to his mother as if nothing were wrong.
Sandess is eternally grateful for the donor’s wife agreeing to give him a second chance at a normal life, and now that he has a new face, his outlook on life shows new promise.