In June 2016, Andrew Sandness underwent a 50 hour surgery at the Mayo Clinic in order to restore the lower half of his face after a self-inflicted gun wound left him facially disfigured and self-conscious. The surgeons transplanted the face of a donor, the late Calen “Rudy” Ross who very generously left instructions to donate his organs, which was then carefully customized to fit Sandness’ face.
After a number of subsequent surgeries and over a year’s worth of therapy, Sandness asked to meet with Ross’ family, which was met with a positive response by Ross’ widow Lillian. Both parties were nervous to meet each other, but they embraced warmly the moment they met. Sandness was able to express his gratitude and Lillian was able to see the good that her husband’s generosity had done for another human being.
One and a half years after the surgery that transformed his life, Andy Sandness meets the widow of the donor.
This surgery was many years in the making, in fact the doctors had devoted over three years of weekends to ensure they were ready when the time came. Sandness’ facial transplant surgery was the first of its kind done at the Mayo Clinic.
Here’s a beautiful tribute video to the life of Rudy Ross as narrated by his wife Lillian.