Sixteen months after groundbreaking transplant surgery gave a Wyoming man a new face after living a decade without one, he met the woman who had agreed to donate her high school sweetheart’s face to him.
Lilly Ross was 19 years old and 8 months pregnant when her husband Calen “Rudy” Ross took his own life. But in a way, her high school sweetheart lives on: His face was donated to another man in a life-changing transplant surgery.
Andy Sandness received that face transplant, a decade after a suicide attempt left him with extreme facial injuries.
And on October 27 — more than a year after the surgery was completed — Ross and Sandness met in person the very first time, the Associated Press reports. Emotional video footage of their meeting has already captivated thousands of viewers on Facebook.
The video was produced by the Mayo Clinic, where the transplant was performed in 2016. It starts by detailing the complexity of Sandness’s surgery, which took nearly 60 hours, nine surgeons, and 40 operating room staff to complete. And it all happened thanks to Ross, who chose to donate many of her late husband’s vital organs as well as his face.
Finally, the video shows Ross and Sandness meeting. Immediately, they embrace. Ross begins to cry.
“You look really good,” Ross says, laughing and wiping tears from her eyes.
Sandness said in the video that the transplant has already changed his life in small but important ways: He can eat normally, speak more clearly, and has even begun dating.
“I don’t know if you can ever say enough thanks for what they’ve given me,” he added. “It’s an unbelievable gift.”
And it seems like a gift that Ross is glad she gave.
“It makes me extremely happy knowing that he’s going to be able to do what he wants in life now,” Ross said in the video.
Watch the whole video right here:
The British Journal Editors and Wire Services