A fateful, albeit tragic, turn of events has seen two complete strangers come together to celebrate the brighter light that now shines on their lives. Their connection? Andy Sandness now calls Lily Ross’ late husband’s face his own following a life-changing face transplant.
Rewind 10 years and Andy Sandness of Wyoming in the US had attempted to take his own life. For a decade, he endured countless surgeries to rebuild his face following the incident, which had left him with a 10-cent-piece-sized mouth and, as ABC reports, a prosthetic nose that often fell off.
In 2016, when Andy had been put on the Mayo Clinic’s wait list for a face transplant, then-pregnant Minnesota local Lily Ross was dealt the shocking blow that her husband and high-school sweetheart, Calen ‘Rudy’ Ross, had taken his own life.
Heartbroken and about to give birth to the unborn baby (a boy later named Leonard) she shared with Rudy, Lily made the decision to donate her husband’s organs to those in need – including his face to 32-year-old Andy.
After a gruelling 56-hour surgery performed by more than 60 medical staff, Andy and Rudy’s faces came together.
Lily was understandably apprehensive about meeting Andy: the thought of seeing her husband’s face on another man was something she thought would break her – she was fearful of the painful reminders of what she and her family had endured following Rudy’s passing.
But when she did meet Andy, all Lily could do was hold Andy and cry.
According to ABC, Lily says she was “proud” of Andy and that meeting him had given her closure.
As for Andy, he is relishing his new lease on life, vowing to make up for the last 10 years that he spend hiding from mirrors.
“I am now able to chew and eat normal food, and the nerve sensation is slowly improving, too,” he tells the Mayo Clinic.
“My confidence has improved, and I’m feeling great – and grateful. I am so thankful to my donor and the donor’s family, and to all of the people who have supported me throughout this process.”