An Unusual Request Bonds Three Remarkable Women

Sandra Bennington’s heart was heavy when she learned that her granddaughter, Adrea, was gone. Sandra had raised Adrea since she was four and tried to give her the best life possible. Even though Adrea was a good person, she had struggled for most of her 31 years. Sadly, like her mother, Adrea could not overcome addiction and died from a drug overdose. From conversations, Sandra knew that Adrea registered to help others through organ, eye and tissue donation. And that, she did. Adrea’s heart went to a woman in her 60’s, her liver went to a man, also in his 60’s. Her right lung was given to a 51-year-old woman, the left to a woman age 62. Both her kidneys and corneas were also donated. Her uterus was used for medical research on infertility.

The family support liaison from Lifebanc had another question but first told Sandra about a young woman with a very special need. She needed a face. When asked about Adrea’s face, Sandra wasn’t sure what to do at first. “I just suddenly realized that, well, why not a face?” She agreed to give permission for Adea’s face to be recovered for transplant and said “Adrea wanted someone to have her other organs. Why not her face too? So that was my answer. I’m very thankful that I did that.”

Gordon Bowen, CEO, Lifebanc stated, “It was an honor for our team to work collaboratively with Cleveland Clinic on a case that will have such a profound impact on this patient’s life. We are tremendously grateful to the donor and her family, with whom our team has developed a special bond during this process. It was the family’s decision to donate that has allowed this extraordinary miracle to occur and we are honored to continue to support them. We are appreciative of all those who commit to give the gift of life and healing. Designating one’s wishes can be done easily online in just moments, and the impact of giving more life is infinite.”

In a 31-hour surgery, Cleveland Clinic surgeons and multiple specialists performed the hospital’s third face transplant – and its first total face transplant – on a 21-year-old female who suffered severe facial trauma and other complications from a gunshot wound as a teenager.

Katie Stubblefield, the recipient of Adrea’s unique gift shared “To reach this point of recovery, has often been a difficult road to travel, but I’m thankful there’s been a road.” Katie continued “And to my donor and her family – words cannot express the appreciation I have for this incredible gift. With a grateful heart, I say thank you.”
Sandra never imaged that the loss of her granddaughter would start a chain of events that would so profoundly impact another young lady with struggles of her own. Sandra said. “It was hard, you know, but I thought, my goodness, here’s this young girl who needs a face. What a wonderful thing that would be. It just seemed like it was meant to be.”

The advancements of face and other vascular composite allograft (VCA) transplants offer new opportunities for healing. VCA donations, such as face, arms and uteri, are special requests with additional authorization above donations designated on the Ohio Donor Registry. The Lifebanc team works exceptionally closely with families of potential VCA donors to ensure that all their questions are answered, and needs are met as they make the decision to allow these types of additional donations to occur.

The need for more registered organ, eye and tissue donors is urgent. By taking a few minutes to complete a form, you can heal and save the lives of more than 50 people. Say “YES” to helping other by joining the Ohio Donor Registry now.