“I’m Not A Monster!”

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I grew up in a small town just 50 miles SE of San Antonio.   Consequently, I grew up watching  San Antonio TV programming…local and that which they had to broadcast due to network affiliation…three of them.    We had few options as far as TV viewing was concerned.  But that was OK, we knew nothing different.  At the time we thought cable was either strong and metallic and often used in commercial construction OR…something  you shat.    But we had our share of entertainment progrms.

For example: one of the main things that kids grew up with in the SA- TV market was this  homespun series on the CBS affiliate, KENS-TV, every Friday night at 10:30,  immediately after the news.   It was entitled, “Project Terror” and was an early weekend taple for every kid I knew.  

It had a most memorable intro, which featured an animated atom and this scary sounding alarm that honked it’s way through the intro, which considering the schlock factor of most of the flicks featured on “Project Terror”, was often scarier than the movie itself.   

Just for you San Antonio area kids  now in your mid-to-late 40’s a of course, the  50-plussers:  I present you with a newer, modified  version of the reason why power usage soared every Friday night .  That’s because  when the scarier movies were shown, we often we ended up sleeping with the lights on.

Not exactly the way we all remember the intro,  but it’ll trigger memories and for those of you not from the SA area, it’ll give you an idea of  what the original opening appeared.

It was a ritual with my mid-sis, Karol and me and whoever was spending Friday night with us.  We’d get into our pajamas then make popccorn, cookies or brownies (sometimes both),  then we’d raid the fridge at Casa Kendrick for Cokes, ice cream….whatever that was cold and slurpable, then in the early 60’s, we settled in before our black and white Zenith.

After 1968, viewing took place in front of our massive solid state, color Curtis Mathes.  

We’d watch such late 50’s horror classics as “The Screaming Skull”, “The Tingler”, “The Fly”, “13 Ghosts” (the orginal)….even “Plan 9 From Outer Space”.

Two hours later, when the movie ended, we believed thathe_tinglert we could  someday land on the moon,  meet vampire Martians and live with  what looked like huge, nasty centipede  looking creatures which could call our spines home. 

Then, there were movies about dead bodies being reanimated and of course, a woman was attacked by a evil-doer with a vile of acid.    Her face was essentially burned off, yet the Mad Scientist over in yonder castle was just crazy enough to attempt to give her a face transplant, thanks to the grave robbing of the recently dead.

THAT was entertaining, but impossible.  A face transplant??? An extremely interesting, but far-fetched concept to wrap one’s pre-pubescent head  around.

But here I am , some 44 years later and Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosse ‘s strange “science fiction movie doctorin’ “, is now science fact.

Please read the following story.    I found it absolutely amazing.

 ♦

CLEVELAND (AP)When Connie Culp heard a little kid call her a monster because of the shotgun blast that left her face horribly disfigured, she pulled out her driver’s license to show the child what she used to look like. Years later, as the nation’s first face transplant recipient, she’s stepped forward to show the rest of the world what she looks like now.

LIia Culp's before and after photo, supplied by the Cleveland Clinic

LIia Culp's before and after photo, supplied by the Cleveland Clinic

Her expressions are still a bit wooden, but she can talk, smile, smell and taste her food again. Her speech is at times a little tough to understand. Her face is bloated and squarish. Her skin droops in big folds that doctors plan to pare away as her circulation improves and her nerves grow, animating her new muscles.

But Culp had nothing but praise for those who made her new face possible.

“I guess I’m the one you came to see today,” the 46-year-old Ohio woman said at a news conference at the Cleveland Clinic, where the groundbreaking operation was performed. But “I think it’s more important that you focus on the donor family that made it so I could have this person’s face.”

Until Tuesday, Culp’s identity and how she came to be disfigured were a secret.

Culp’s husband, Thomas, shot her in 2004, then turned the gun on himself. He went to prison for seven years. His wife was left clinging to life. The blast shattered her nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye. Hundreds of fragments of shotgun pellet and bone splinters were embedded in her face. She needed a tube into her windpipe to breathe. Only her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin were left.

A plastic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Risal Djohan, got a look at her injuries two months later. “He told me he didn’t think, he wasn’t sure, if he could fix me, but he’d try,” Culp recalled.

She endured 30 operations to try to fix her face. Doctors took parts of her ribs to make cheekbones and fashioned an upper jaw from one of her leg bones. She had countless skin grafts from her thighs. Still, she was left unable to eat solid food, breathe on her own, or smell.

Then, on Dec. 10, in a 22-hour operation, Dr. Maria Siemionow led a team of doctors who replaced 80 percent of Culp’s face with bone, muscles, nerves, skin and blood vessels from another woman who had just died. It was the fourth face transplant in the world, though the others were not as extensive.

“Here I am, five years later. He did what he said — I got me my nose,” Culp said of Djohan, laughing.

In January, she was able to eat pizza, chicken and hamburgers for the first time in years. She loves to have cookies with a cup of coffee, Siemionow said.

No information has been released about the donor or how she died, but her family members were moved when they saw before-and-after pictures of Culp, Siemionow said.

Culp said she wants to help foster acceptance of those who have suffered burns and other disfiguring injuries.

“When somebody has a disfigurement and don’t look as pretty as you do, don’t judge them, because you never know what happened to them,” she said. “Don’t judge people who don’t look the same as you do. Because you never know. One day it might be all taken away.”

It’s a role she has already practiced, said clinic psychiatrist Dr. Kathy Coffman.

Once while shopping, she heard a little kid say, `You said there were no real monsters, Mommy, and there’s one right there,'” Coffman said. Culp stopped and said, “I’m not a monster. I’m a person who was shot,” and pulled out her driver’s license to show the child what she used to look like, the psychiatrist said.

Culp, who is from the small town of Unionport, near the Pennsylvania line, told her doctors she just wants to blend back into society. She has a son and a daughter who live near her, and two preschooler grandsons. Before she was shot, she and her husband ran a painting and contracting business, and she did everything from hanging drywall to a little plumbing, Coffman said.

Culp left the hospital Feb. 5 and has returned for periodic follow-up care. She has suffered only one mild rejection episode that was controlled with a single dose of steroid medicines, her doctors said. She must take immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of her life, but her dosage has been greatly reduced and she needs only a few pills a day.

The clinic expects to absorb the cost of the transplant because it was experimental, doctors said. Siemionow estimated it at $250,000 to $300,000. That is less than the $1 million that other surgeons estimate it costs them to treat other severely disfigured people through dozens of separate operations, she said.

Also at the Cleveland Clinic is Charla Nash of Stamford, Conn., who was attacked by a friend’s chimpanzee in February. She lost her hands, nose, lips and eyelids, and will be blind, doctors said. Clinic officials said it is premature to discuss the possibility of a face transplant for her.

In April, doctors at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston performed the nation’s second face transplant, on a man disfigured in a freak accident. It was the world’s seventh such operation. The first, in 2005, was performed in France on Isabelle Dinoire, a woman who had been mauled by her dog.

Almost incredulous, right?     But it’s a reality and one I am lucky enough to have seen in my lifetime.  

Technology never ceases to amaze me.

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22 comments

  1. Like so many of us, I am so grateful to the doctors who are skilled and brave enough to take that woman on as a patient and not only save her life but give it back to her. I just pray that she can continue to improve and have a happy life again. What an inspiration… Now about the scary shows on TV back in the 50’s and 60’s. Wonder if anyone from the S.A. area remembers Shock Theater on Friday nights at 10:30? At least I think that was the time. The guy who was also Captain Gus (every afternoon at 4:00-showing Popeye cartoons)was the scary guy they showed at the beginning. The phrase he used was, “Tired of the every day routine? Ever want to get away from it all? Then prepare yourself for a SHOCK!!!” Just that alone scared me to death. I can still hear it now! Too scared to watch but compelled to do so!! Those were the days…..

    No no no , Sister dear…

    That show was called “5-Star Shock” and it came on Saturday’s at 3 or 3:30 on KENS-TV Channel 5 (hence the “5 Star Shock” title).

    The voice of Project Terror, the 5-Star Shock undertaker and Captain Gus (a kids afternoon post school cartoon compendium) was voiced and/or performed by Joe Alston. I think he died in the mid to late 80’s maybe even in the very early 90’s. He’d always had a severe bouts with diabetes.

    I miss those days. Our only ambition was to get home by 4:00 pm in order to catch all 60 minutes of Capt. Gus.

    Now I’m lucky if I can even get to sleep by 4 am. Way too much stress in my life right now and I’m in the lives of everyone reading this.

  2. and Kathy remember the ugly hand that would come across the title and turn it like a page in the book? That’s what scared me. There was also a late 50s thriller called Inner Sanctum. Anybody remember that one? Captain Gus always called the little kids “maties” which I remember thinking was stupid. Kids would write in and he would read the letters to the audience and show drawings he would get. I had my tonsils removed and I drew a picture of them on paper and mailed it to the good captain but he never read my letter or showed them to the tv audience. I was disappointed as it took a few days to perfect the likeness of my old tonsils.

    Remember the original movie In Cold Blood and how the back stair banister popped one night, Kathy and Laurie?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

    You and Kathy locked your bedroom doors and so did I a fraction of a second later. Then you heard some movement in my bedroom (which was adjacen to Karol’s. Turns out I was moving my dresser in from of the door and the only weapon I had in my room was my Cheerleading megaphone.

    Yeah like…”Stop or I’ll motivate you with Badger spirit” was going to stop any would be assailant.

    What about that time we were in the playroom (Pater and Mater were gone) and we heard the drawers opening and closing in our upstairs bathroom.

  3. and the sound of glass breaking in our bathroom? That house had a haunting spirit about it. I had grand memories there for 5 years and that was it. The rest of the years we had that house was your undoing, Laurie. I should be glad I was out of there during that time.

  4. I thought you had Kathy’s room at the end of the hall, above mother and daddy’s room? Kathy was in the guestroom and when we heard that banister pop, she sprintedf across the hallway to my room. Then we heard you moving your dresser in front of your door. Looking back on that, it was hilarious.

  5. Laurie, didn’t your drama teacher(forgot her name)come over and exorcised the house? She said that there were two old lady spirits there and it was full of weird happenings. Everywhere we have lived, I have had encounters. Hey, this isn’t even October and we are telling our ghost stories. Fun, isn’t it???

  6. Well, so I got the time and names wrong-I just remember being scared out of my wits. Our parents took some kind of strange joy out of terrifying us. Remember when dad dressed up as an ax killer and scared my friends and I? Laurie, tell that story-you are better at it than me.

  7. Laurie’s readers are going to know why the Sisters Kendrick are such basket cases.

  8. Lauiae must be having one of her quiet Thursday night candle light dinners.

  9. I guess with all the dirty laundrey we’ve exposed over the last couple of years, they know.

  10. Hey, our dirty laundry is just like everyone elses. We just talk about it-kinda like (as Wes would say) beating a dead horse!

  11. Wonder if she’s having her candlelit dinner with her imaginery manfriend? What was his name again?

  12. After that comment, I am sure that she is busy doing something else or she would be on you like flies on honey! But she has had some imaginery friends in her life. That would be another subject to touch on, although, you would know more about that than me. I was quite a bit older and really don’t remember what you two do. What a life!

  13. Laurie must be on the phone or she would chime in…maybe she is cleaning her kitchen or I know, scrubbing her bathtub!

  14. she’s going to kill us when she reads everything we’ve said so far. oh well.

  15. I hesitate to step in here… living in the Dorm at St. Mary’s in the late 60’s I too remember 5 star shock and project terror. Back in that day, the real terror was the war in Vietnam and which of us were going to be drafted when we graduated in 69. For too many of us, those terrors remain as the vets suffer from PTSD. I thank God Almighty that though I’m a vet, I didn’t get sent to Vietnam. So, sometimes, real terror is living with the consequences of violence as Vietnam vets and Ms. Culp can testify to.

    Terrific post Laurie, but then you were always at the top of the bloggers!

  16. Hi, My name is Lidia and I had in accident in 12/2004 were I burn 60% of my body incluiding my face I had several surgies but not of them had been what I had expected I love my self but I do feel the looks from other people when I go out I read your article of what they did to this women and I tried to look for the hospital to get some information and to see if they can help me but I wasn’t able to find the main page can you help me. Thank you God Bless you

    Lidia Martinez

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