Face On

07 May


In any culture, attacking a person’s face is the most personal way to give vent to your feelings. Cutting off noses, throwing acid, shooting, clawing, gouging… think about the last time you were really, violently angry at someone. Chances are you either targeted or wanted to attack their face.

Your face is central to your identity, it is how you view yourself and is the physical basis to which other people attach their reactions to you. The way you look determines what job you hold, how much money you make, how many friends you have, who you married and quite a bit else besides. We can say that it shouldn’t be, but the truth is that your face is your fortune to some degree or the other. That’s why people are so obsessed with them – their own and other people’s.

Which is why would-be attackers favor it on an instinctual level. Destroy a person’s face and you can be sure they’ve gotten the message. Like Connie Culp, a domestic violence survivor who was shot in the face by her husband five years ago:

The blast shattered her nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye. Hundreds of fragments of shotgun pellet and bone splinters were embedded in her face. She needed a tube into her windpipe to breathe. Only her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin were left.

Although a nine year old girl called Sandeep Kaur had her face re-attached in 1994, up until a year or so ago, skin grafts and facial bone reconstructions were the best people like Culp could hope for.

And then five months ago, she became only the fourth person in the world to recieve a face transplant.

Culp’s expressions are still a bit wooden, but she can talk, smile, smell and taste her food again. Her speech is at times a little tough to understand. Her face is bloated and squarish, and her skin droops in big folds that doctors plan to pare away as her circulation improves and her nerves grow, animating her new muscles.

On the one hand, it all sounds terribly Dr. Frankenstein – walking around with another person’s face attached to your head is not really all that cool as even Face/Off was forced to conclude. But as Culp explains, it’s not exactly a picnic to walk around with the shattered remnants of a face either. So she needs a facelift or two, slurs her words and when she wakes up in the morning she sees a stranger’s face in her mirror – compare that to little children audibly pointing her out as a monster in their midst.

I’d take it.

”When somebody has a disfigurement and don’t look as pretty as you do, don’t judge them, because you never know what happened to them,” she said. ”Don’t judge people who don’t look the same as you do. Because you never know. One day it might be all taken away.”


Posted by on May 7, 2009 in Life, Newsmakers, Video


13 responses to “Face On

  1. M

    May 7, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Pretty cool stuff, in my book. There was also a double hand transplant this week in the news….I just want to know if/how the nerves regenerate across the cuts….when the nerves in my lower abdomen are still dead after the C-section 10 years ago.


  2. pitu

    May 7, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    So sad 😦 I’d like to torture her bastard husband’s ghost :-X But you know, there was this college girl in Mumbai who had acid thrown in her face by some a-hole whose advances she rejected. Despite several surgeries, she never looked the same. And after her surgeries, she started taking the same local train I did and we’d sit in the same compartment every morning on our way to our respective colleges. I never stared at her but I don’t need to tell you how many people did… she was incredibly brave and all of a fragile 17 yrs of age. I wish I’d said something to her, but I was afraid to sound patronizing or insensitive but yeah, what a lasting reminder of some a-hole who couldn’t understand the meaning of “I’m sorry, you’re not my type”. Makes me want to count my blessings when I am agonizing over the latest zit.

  3. dipali

    May 7, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Heartbreaking. Medical technology is so wonderful, though.

  4. sraboneyghose

    May 8, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Medical technology is truly wonderful…Her courage is amazing…

  5. Orange Jammies

    May 8, 2009 at 5:47 am

    I wonder how she’s dealt with the internal scars. Thank you, Ams, this was a lesson in perspective, gratitude and an affirmation of the human spirit.

  6. Prasanth

    May 8, 2009 at 6:11 am

    Good point about attackers instinctively choosing to attack the face. Got me thinking of the recent acid/oil attacks by rejected romeos in Andhra. Incidentally, I have hardly ever heard of of a man being subjected to such assaults. Says something about how women are face of our glorious culture.


  7. memsaab

    May 8, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Unfortunately, her ex-husband is not a ghost yet. And he only got 7 years in jail for the crime too! Ugh.

    She has great spirit. I really admire her, and the family who donated their loved one’s face for her…

    • Solilo

      May 19, 2009 at 4:22 am

      WTH!! Just 7 years for shooting his wife? I admire this lady’s spirit. I have seen her before surgery on a show.

      Reminds me of another case where a guy after some fungi reaction while hiking started losing his skin and now there is nothing on his face. His wife still supporting and caring for him.

  8. Amrita

    May 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    M – seriously? I’d never heard of that about C-sections. Is that why they recommend against them? I don’t know the medical details of it but they did write a paper about her so it should be available somewhere on the net.

    Pitu – I have never understood the rationale behind the acid attacks. Not even in a warped way does it make any sense to me. But at least that girl was going about her life. What is truly awful is that for many girls, that kind of experience is as good as a death sentence once their families and “friends” get through with them. So sad.

    Dipali & Bones – and it’s getting better by the day!

    OJ – gave me pause too.

    Prasanth – what is UP with that? I remember reading about Andhra and apparently it’s quite a common practice which is just warped. Now apparently they’re just up and shooting the acid throwers coz nobody is getting prosecuted. I’m not a fan of vigilante-ism but lord knows, I’m not crying for those sobs.

    Memsaab – how the hell does that happen, right? He shoots her in the face (!!!) and destroys her life and he gets seven years for it? What the hell? Re: the donor family, so true! I can imagine donating a loved one’s internal organs or eyes or stuff like that, but there are people out there who donate skin, bones, and now faces. It’s amazing.

  9. pitu

    May 10, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    “they’re just up and shooting the acid throwers”

    Awesome! Sign me up 😀

  10. Mamma Mia! Me a Mamma?!?

    May 11, 2009 at 12:35 am

    This is so many things all mixed together…horrifying, sad, terrible. But thankfully her spirit conquers it all.

    Thank you for this post…it made me count my blessings.

  11. Prasanth

    May 11, 2009 at 3:34 am

    The case in Andhra where the shooting happened has a couple of more layers to it. For one, the culprit, Srinivas, had been in prison before for burning the girl’s father’s scooter and there was conclusive proof of the fact that he was the perpetrator. It is true that even if convicted, he would have been in jail for only 14 years whereas the girl lost her life, but even that was no excuse for the police to shoot the guy the way they did.
    I try to understand vigilantism although I have very little sympathy for it. However, when the police takes a suspect to a secret location, shoots him and then claims he was trying to run away, it sounds hardly convincing and cannot be called vigilantism in any sense of the term.

  12. Amrita

    May 11, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Pitu – I’d sign up too, if we could only target them before they did it! Where’s Tom Cruise when you need him?

    Mamma – other people’s tragedies always do. 😦

    Prasanth – you know, Andhra is one of those states about which I know very little and the more I watch their movies, the less I understand so I’m just going to say: it’s what Chiranjeevi would have done! That’s my answer to everything.

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