WATCH: US widow meets the man who was given her dead husband's face

Andy Sandness lost most of his face in 2006

WATCH: US widow meets the man who was given her dead husband's face

Image: YouTube/Mayo Clinic

A widow in the US has had an emotional meeting with the man who received her dead husband's face in a transplant operation.

Lilly Ross met Andy Sandness 16 months after the surgery made possible by her decision to donate her husband's face to a man who had lived for a decade without one.

Mr Sandness had attempted to take his own life in 2006, destroying most of his face.

He withdrew from contact with other people after facial surgery left him severely disfigured.

But he was given hope when he made it onto a waiting list for the Mayo Clinic's face transplant programme in 2016 - and Mrs Ross agreed to donate her husband's face.

Her husband Calen, who she called "Rude", took his own life in 2016.

Lilly and Calen | Image: YouTube/Mayo Clinic

Her decision to donate more than just her husband's vital organ's enabled Mr Sandness to become the Mayo Clinic's first face transplant patient.

The operation took nearly 60 hours to complete, and involved virtually every tissue below Andy’s eyes.

Image: YouTube/Mayo Clinic

The successful surgery has allowed Mr Sandness to chew food properly again.

"So, now, I'm able to eat, eat food finally. My speech is better - still needs work, but that'll come."

Mrs Ross said she had been worried about the meeting bringing back reminders of her husband.

But without the same eyes, forehead and strong cheeks she said Mr Sandness looked quite different.

"He looks a little like him. Andy looks a little bit like Rude, like with the – Andy can’t grow hair right here, and neither could Rude.

"And he’s got the flushed cheeks, and he’s got a little mole on his nose.

"Otherwise, I see Andy - I don’t see much of Rude in him."

Image: YouTube/Mayo Clinic

The pair wept as they hugged for the first time, and Mr Sandness spent time playing with Mr Ross' son Leonard.

Mr Sandness said he had felt "a lot of emotion" at the meeting.

He said: "I don't know that you can ever say enough thanks for what they've given me. I mean, Lilly, it's an unbelievable - it's an unbelievable gift.

"There just, I mean, you can't give enough thanks. You can't give enough money. There's nothing you can do. Except now I can just show them."

Image: Mayo Clinic

Mrs Ross said: "You’re helping somebody else. I’m gonna cry. It makes me extremely happy to know he’s going to be able to do what he wants in life now."

Mr Sandness has started a trust fund in honour of his donor to benefit Rudy and Lilly Ross' son, Leonard.

He and Lilly also hope to raise awareness about two causes important to them: organ donation and suicide prevention.

Additional reporting: IRN