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A Perfect Match: Minnesota’s First Face Transplant

In June 2016, Calen “Rudy” Ross gave the gifts of organ, eye and tissue donation after his death, including a very special gift – the gift of his face. This is his story, as told by his wife Lillian.

In June of 2016, LifeSource was honored to facilitate a very special gift from a young man named Calen “Rudy” Ross. Rudy made the generous decision to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor during his lifetime and his wife, Lilly, honored his decision. Incredibly, he was also a perfect match for a man who was waiting for a very special gift – the gift of face transplant. 

Registering to be a donor means giving the gifts of organ, eye and tissue donation. Specialty grafts, like face transplant, require a separate conversation and approval from the donor’s family.  

After a separate conversation and request for this specialty graft, Lilly said yes to face donation. She was eight months pregnant with their first child at the time, whom they had together named Leonard. “The reason I decided to go through with it was so that later down the road I can show Leonard what his dad had done to help someone,” shared Lilly. 

Rudy saved the lives of five people through organ donation, healed countless others through tissue donation and gave one man his life back through the gift of his face. Even with incredible advancements in science and technology – the very things that make new opportunities like face transplant a reality – donation is only possible with a gift generously given from one person to another. 

LifeSource is grateful for the support of our partners at Sanford USD Medical Center, who skillfully cared for Rudy and helped preserve the opportunity for donation, and at Mayo Clinic whose leadership in the field of face transplant provides hope to people in our community. You can learn more about their patient’s story, as well as his surgery and recovery

Related Links: 

Mayo Clinic’s first face transplant patient meets donor’s family (VIDEO)