Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Mayo Clinic recently hosted an emotional meeting that was requested by one of Mayo’s more famous patients.

32-year-old Andy Sandness became the Mayo Clinic’s first face transplant recipient in June of last year in a 56-hour long procedure involving 60 surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists and other members of a transplant team that had spent over 3 years rehearsing the incredibly complex operation.

Sandness, who was left badly disfigured by a suicide attempt in 2006, spent months recovering in Rochester before the Mayo Clinic went public and introduced him and release information about the transformational transplant in February of this year. According to a Mayo Clinic news release, he’s been waiting since then to deliver a personal “thank you” to the family of the donor who made the life-changing operation possible.

Calen “Rudy” Ross left behind his 19-year-old pregnant wife when he took his own life last year. Lilly Ross made the decision to donate his organs in hopes of saving the lives of numerous people dealing with life-threatening illnesses. She also made it possible for Sandness to receive his new face.

Andy Sandness - Lilly Ross meeting
photo courtesy Mayo Clinic

He has created a trust fund to honor Rudy Ross and benefit his one-year-old son Leonard, who traveled to Rochester with his mother to meet Sandness and see, firsthand, the impact of the decision to make Rudy an organ donor. The meeting also helped Sandness and Lily address their desire to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation and suicide prevention.

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