America's First Face Transplant
For five years, Connie lived without a face. Then, in December 2008, she received the the most extensive face transplant ever performed.
After years of being victimized, Connie started to stand up for herself. "He would push me and people would see it, and I would get up and I'd say, 'I'm a good person, and I don't deserve that,'" she says. "He wasn't used to me talking back."
After suffering a near-fatal blow, Connie managed to walk downstairs and find her twin sister, Bonnie, who called Connie's daughter, Alicia. "She said, 'He shot her.' I immediately knew that she must have meant my dad shot my mom. I wasn't really even surprised," Alicia says. "I always knew that he could really hurt somebody. I knew he had a potential. I just didn't think it would be my mom."
When Connie was first shot, she says she didn't know how extensive the injuries were. "You're actually in shock [when you get shot], and you don't feel anything, " she says. "I could feel the blood and all that, but your adrenaline's going so fast that there was no pain."
Tom was convicted of attempted aggravated murder and sentenced to seven years in prison. He's scheduled for release in 2011.
See the progression of Connie's face over the years. Warning: Photos are graphic
Even after all the work she'd had done, Connie still couldn't smell, eat solid foods or breathe on her own. If she was going to get her life back, she needed something groundbreaking, which is exactly what she got.
Eighty percent of Connie's new face comes from an anonymous donor. She is legally blind, but says she make out shadows. Despite her new physical attributes, Connie says she feels like her old self. "I just have to retrain my muscles all over again," she says. "I have to exercise them every day just like doing push-ups or sit-ups every day."
See what Connie's life is like today
Connie says she's regaining feeling in her face and making vast improvements. "I'm getting headaches with sinuses and stuff, but I feel a hundred percent better than I used to," she says.
Connie says Alicia helped her realize she could never be with Tom again. "[I asked her], 'What kind of example would you set for me if you went back to the man that shot you?'" Alicia says.
The truth clicked for Connie when she heard her daughter's words. "Do I want her to live through what I went through? The ups and downs? Because everybody thinks it's going to get better. It's not going to get better unless they get help," she says.
For years, Connie tried to make excuses for Tom, claiming the shooting was an accident. "Well, guess what? I don't think it was," she says. "Today's the first time I've ever said that."
Connie says she is almost ready to close the door on her relationship with Tom. "I'm really close to finally getting a divorce, and I packed up all his stuff," she says. "It's hard. This year would have been 30 years of being together."
Connie says she doesn't have a plan for the future just yet. "I'm just trying to move on," she says. "I want to watch [my grandsons] grow."