Skip to content

Woman Whose Face Was Shot Off To Get New Magnetic Prosthetic

April 28, 2010

This is an amazing story of true DisAbility. It is also a reminder to everyone of the dangers of guns. This post is part of the debate on DisAbility And Parenting at Same Difference.

An American woman is set to have a total mid-face reconstruction after losing her eyes and nose in a horrific shooting accident.

Chrissy Steltz, 27, was just 16 when her friend accidentally blasted a shotgun in her face at point blank range.

Eleven years later, doctors are set to reconstruct her face with a silicone mask with a nose and glass eyes, magnetically attached to dental implants drilled into her remaining bones.

The never-before-attempted surgery will, she hopes, allow her to raise her young son without wearing a mask.

Because she has no eye sockets or sinus cavity, doctors are unable to perform a face transplant.

Instead they are to mask her injuries with artificial eyes and a nose of silicone.

The mask will be held in place by magnets attached to eight implants embedded in the remaining bones of her face.

The $20,000 (£13,000) three-hour surgery is not covered by health insurance as it is considered cosmetic – so doctors have donated their time and skill.

And if all goes well, by this summer, Chrissy will once again have a face.

Chrissy made incredible strides towards living a normal life after the horrific accident when she was just a high school student in Portland, Oregon.

She learned to read Braille and walk with a cane.

Attending a school for the blind she fell in love with another student, Gregory Dilgers. The pair have since had a son, also named Geoffrey. He is eight months old.

When Chrissy goes to sleep at night, she told ABC’s 20/20, she dreams she can see little Geoffrey before her.

‘I see his chubby cheeks and his gorgeous eyes and his perfect little lips,’ she said.

‘When I go to bed every night … my dreams are fully sighted. I still see the sky. I still see … you know, the ocean.

‘The oddest of dreams is I’ll pull off my sleep-shade and I’ll look just like I did when I was 16,’ she said. ‘And I’ll throw the sleep-shade on the ground and walk off.’

It was during her spring break in 1999 that the horrific accident occurred.

She recounted how she was at her Portland flat with friends one day, admitting they were doing ‘what teenagers shouldn’t do’ – drinking.

She went to get some orange juice, she said, and found a friend holding the 12-gauge shotgun.

‘My words were, “Put that down before you kill somebody,”‘ she said.

‘And he told me, “It’s not loaded.”

She was just five feet away from him at the time. ‘Yep. And from that moment is when my life changed.’

Her boyfriend at the time, Will O’Brien, rushed into the room seconds later.

He told 20/20: ‘I don’t know if you have ever seen like a wounded animal trying to get up?

‘That’s what I saw. I saw an injury that nobody survives, except somebody really strong. And she was trying to get up.’

Chrissy was rushed to hospital, where doctors saved her life – but not her face.

The blast tore away her left eye socket, her nose, and the supporting mid-facial structures. It damaged her right eye so much that she lost all vision.

Doctors were amazed she survived the blast. She was in a coma for six weeks – and when she awoke she thought she had fallen asleep during a car journey with her family.

It was O’Brien who broke the news of what happened to her.

The only one of her five senses that wasn’t affected was touch, she said. ‘I have no smell. I have no sight. I have a little taste.’

But she refused to let her injuries stop her. She went on to her high school prom and graduated with straight As.

‘I knew I could sit back and have a pity party, or I could figure out what to do and go about doing it, and that’s exactly what I did,’ she told 20/20.

At classes for the blind, she met Geoffrey Dilger. By coincidence he also lost his sight at 16, though in his case it was due to a rare illness.

Seven years into their relationship, the couple had baby Geoffrey.

‘I would like for him to be able to grow up with his mom not needing a sleep-shade,’ Chrissy said.

And if all goes well with the surgery, she may just get her wish.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 7, 2010 12:14 am

    This is an amazing story and just shows that medical science can sometimes advance at such a rapid pace to help people that were injured years ago.

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: