If the insane popularity of pimple-popping videos is any indication, we, as a society, have an unusual (Weird? Creepy?) obsession with ultra up-close-and-personal looks at our bodies and all of their individual nooks and crannies. If you think checking out the wonders of the dermis is cool, you won’t believe what doctors were able to do with this full-face transplant that’s—naturally—going viral.
After a terribly tragic suicide attempt ten years ago that left Andy Sandness, now 31, with serious damage (and eight surgeries) to his face, doctors at the Mayo Clinic performed a downright medical miracle by giving him a full-on facial transplant in 2016. The procedure was a total game-changer. When Sandness first landed in the operating room of Samir Mardini—a plastic surgeon who specializes in facial reconstruction—he had no jaw, no nose, and no mouth to speak of. For years, he walked around avoiding social situations—worried he’d attract stares and scare children. Aesthetics aside, Sandness also had some serious lifestyle impacts—without a fully functioning mouth or teeth, eating and talking were difficult tasks, and for years, his best option at meeting society’s normality was to wear a prosthetic nose that often fell off. So no, it wasn’t ideal.
Luckily, the world of plastic surgery has advanced tenfold in the decade since his injury. In 2012, Mayo Clinic launched a face transplant program, and last year the clinic found a donor match for Sandness. The actual surgery took 56 hours and 60 surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists to pull it off. (Talk about work.)
More on innovative plastic surgery and transplants:
- The Best Celebrity Plastic Surgery Secrets
- What You Need to Know About Eyebrow Transplants
- Tourists Are Getting Hair Transplant Surgeries in Turkey
The results are literally awe-inspiring and, of course, emotionally inspiring—despite faint scarring across the bridge of his nose and under his eyes, Sandness looks totally normal. Three months after the transplant, he was in an elevator with a mother and her little boy, who glanced at him and then looked away without a second thought. “I knew then that the surgery was a success,” he said. Heartstrings, tugged.
With that being said, can we just take a moment to appreciate how cool science is? Earlier this month, scientists in Madrid perfected a bioprinter that prints actual human skin. Yes—you read that right—human skin. With tech like this in the works, game-changing transplants and amazing stories like Sandness’s will only become more prevalent. Let’s get a praise hands emoji for skin science on an epic level.
Now, watch a woman with cystic acne share what makes her feel beautiful: