Former Hopedale resident and first ever facial transplant recipient, Connie Culp, dies at 57

Local News

HOPEDALE, Ohio (WTRF)

A legacy of inspiration lives on – that’s how former WTRF reporter Dave Elias describes the impact that Connie Culp left on not just the Ohio Valley, but the world. 7News sat down with Elias to recount one of the most impactful stories he’s ever done in his 32 years of journalism.

Hopedale, Ohio is small town with just over 900 residents. But one former resident—rocked the nation with a story of hope and determination after a failed murder-suicide attempt in September of 2007 lead to a breakthrough in medicine.

Connie Culp’s story is one of those stories is one of those stories that I will hold for a lifetime. It was a story of inspiration, achievement, overcoming the impossible. She is one of those people that I will never forget interviewing.

DAVE ELIAS – FORMER REPORTER, WTRF

It started out as a shooting. But was later found that Hopedale resident, Connie Culp, had been shot by her husband. Then, he shot himself. In a shocking turn of events, they both survived.

At that time—nobody had expected Connie to survive given the seriousness of the shooting and the fact that she literally had her face blown off.

DAVE ELIAS – FORMER REPORTER, WTRF

Then—a miracle happened.

I can remember when Connie made that appearance at the Cleveland Clinic. She came out with this brand-new face.

DAVE ELIAS – FORMER REPORTER, WTRF

A face that was not hers… but someone’s who had recently died.

Everyone wanted to know how she was feeling,  what it was like to walk around with someone else’s face. I mean, it was groundbreaking.

DAVE ELIAS – FORMER REPORTER, WTRF

After 22-hours on the operating table—Connie became the top news story. From WTRF to Opera—becoming an inspiration to everyone who heard her story.

The one thing that I remember most about Connie Culp was how inspirational she was. And I can remember thinking, if I had my face blown off by a gun, A, I don’t know if I could forgive the person, and B, I don’t know if I could be happy about life. And Connie managed to do all of those things.

DAVE ELIAS – FORMER REPORTER, WTRF

Connie Culp died Thursday evening—being remembered as source of hope for the world.

Connie Culp should be an inspiration for all of us, and especially at a time like we’re all going through right now. We’re worried about having masks on our face, Connie was worried about even having a face. So, when you really stop and think about that, I think it speaks for itself.

DAVE ELIAS – FORMER REPORTER, WTRF

Connie’s facial structure was less than 30 percent of her own face—most of it was formed by the Cleveland surgical team from tissue, skin, nerves, bones, arteries, and veins—creating around 77 square inches of transplanted tissue.

The cause of Connie’s death has not been released yet, but at 57, she died as the longest living facial transplant patient to date.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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