Connie Culp

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Connie Culp
Connie Culp.jpg
Connie Culp, before and after the operation.
Born(1963-03-26)March 26, 1963
DiedJuly 29, 2020(2020-07-29) (aged 57)
Known forfirst U.S. recipient of a face transplant
Spouse(s)Thomas G. "Tom" Culp (former)

Connie Culp (March 26, 1963 – July 29, 2020)[1][2] was the first United States recipient of a partial face transplant, performed at the Cleveland Clinic in December 2008.

Facial disfigurement[edit]

Culp was shot in the face by her husband Thomas G. "Tom" Culp in a failed murder–suicide in September 2004 inside their bar in Hopedale, Ohio. He also survived and was convicted in 2005 of aggravated attempted murder with a seven-year prison sentence.[3] Culp forgave her husband at the sentencing and said she would be waiting when he gets out of prison,[4][5] but on September 22, 2009, Culp said on an episode of Oprah that she no longer planned to wait for her former husband after her daughter asked her, "Mom, what kind of example would you be setting for me if you went back to the man who shot your face off?"


The shotgun blast destroyed Culp's nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye. She underwent 30 operations prior to the face transplant on December 10, 2008. Surgeon Maria Siemionow led a team of doctors in a 22-hour operation that replaced 80 percent of Culp's face with the face from another woman who had recently died.

Her nose was rebuilt and some of the disfigurement repaired in the operation.[6] The Associated Press reported that Culp was able to breathe on her own and eat solid food following the transplant, adding "Ms. Culp's expressions are still a bit wooden, and she remains almost blind (right eye is prosthetic, left eye is damaged),[7] but she can talk, smile, smell and taste food again, and has learned braille. Her speech is at times difficult to understand. Her face is bloated and squarish, and her skin droops in folds that doctors plan to pare away as her circulation improves and her nerves grow, animating new muscles." She worked as an advocate fostering understanding for survivors of burns or other disfigurements.[8]

In 2010, Culp had her final facial surgery performed and regained much of her facial function, including the ability to smile, speak, and feel facial sensations due to the regrowth of facial nerves.[9]


On July 29, 2020, Culp died from an infection unrelated to her face transplant. She was 57 years old.[10]

Dr. Frank Papay, the chair of the Cleveland Clinic's Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute who was on Culp's surgical squad, reflected upon her passing: "Connie was an incredibly brave, vibrant woman and an inspiration to many. Her strength was evident in the fact that she had been the longest-living face transplant patient to date. She was a great pioneer and her decision to undergo a sometimes-daunting procedure is an enduring gift for all of humanity."[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Woman who underwent first near-total face transplant in U.S. meets life with joy and humor". Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  2. ^ Pietsch, Bryan (1 August 2020). "Connie Culp, First Face Transplant Recipient in U.S., Dies at 57". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  3. ^ Kroenig, Julie (April 13, 2005). Man Shoots Wife in Face...Sentenced to 7 Years. Archived 2009-05-09 at the Wayback Machine WTRF
  4. ^ Mazure, Steve (April 14, 2005) Gunman Sentenced--Wife Forgives Him. Archived 2009-05-09 at the Wayback Machine WBOY
  5. ^ Staff report (February 25, 2008). Woman Speaks Out After Husband Shoots Her In Face. Archived 2009-02-13 at the Wayback Machine WTOV
  6. ^ Winslow, Ron (May 6, 2009). Face-Transplant Patient Emerges. Wall Street Journal
  7. ^ Bradley Blackburn & Lana Zak (August 26, 2010). The First U.S. Face Transplant Patient Learns To Smile Again! Archived 2011-09-28 at the Wayback Machine ABC News
  8. ^ Associated Press (May 5, 2009). Connie Culp, Nation's First Face Transplant Patient, Emerges.
  9. ^ "Face Transplant Patient Reveals New Face". ABC News. 27 August 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  10. ^ Connie Culp, First Face Transplant Recipient in U.S., Dies at 57
  11. ^

External links[edit]