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His father and his brother, joined by several doctors and nurses at Mayo Clinic, watched as he studied his swollen features. He was just starting to heal from one of the rarest surgeries in the world — a face transplant, the first at the medical center. He had the nose, cheeks, mouth, lips, jaw, chin, even the teeth of his donor. Resting in his hospital bed, he still couldn’t speak clearly, but he had something to say.

He scrawled four words in a spiral notebook:

“Far exceeded my expectations,” he wrote, handing it to Dr. Samir Mardini, who read the message to the group.

“You don’t know how happy that makes us feel,” Mardini said, his voice husky with emotion as he looked at the patient-turned-friend he had first met nearly a decade earlier.

The exchange came near the end of an extraordinary medical journey that revolved around two young men. Both were rugged outdoorsmen and both just 21 when they decided to kill themselves: One, Sandness, survived but with a face almost destroyed by a gunshot; the other man died.

…Listen Now

Image: By Espa1010 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17091941

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