Connie Culp, an Ohio woman who became the first recipient of a partial face transplant after surviving a botched murder-suicide attempt, died Thursday at age 57.

Culp's cause of death has yet to be revealed, but her passing was confirmed by the Cleveland Clinic's Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, where she underwent her surgical procedure.

"Connie was an incredibly brave, vibrant woman, and an inspiration to many," Dr Frank Papay, chairman of the clinic's Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, said in a statement.

"Her strength was evident in the fact that she had been the longest-living face transplant patient to date. She was a great pioneer and her decision to undergo a sometimes-daunting procedure is an enduring gift for all of humanity."

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Culp received a new face from a dead woman in 2008 after her then husband, Thomas Culp, shot her in the face before turning the gun on himself.

Both husband and wife survived the blasts. Thomas Culp was sent to prison for seven years, while his wife was left without a nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye.

She had 30 operations in a bid by plastic surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic to remove hundreds of shotgun pellets and bone splinters from her face.

The cost of the surgery – which involved reconstructing 80 per cent of her face using bone, muscles, nerves, skin and blood vessels from a dead woman – has been estimated at up to $400,000.

Culp's face was badly damaged after the tragic incident (left), before undergoing the first face transplant surgery in December 2008. Photo / AP
Culp's face was badly damaged after the tragic incident (left), before undergoing the first face transplant surgery in December 2008. Photo / AP

Most of that cost was absorbed by the clinic, because the surgery was experimental.

After her strenuous recovery, Culp became an ardent domestic-violence speaker.

"I've met probably 10 women that actually had a gun pointed at them," Culp told The Plain Dealer in a 2019 interview.

"The only difference is the gun wasn't loaded. I say, 'The next time it might be.' I never thought that he would do that to me. And look where I am. I'm just lucky that somebody was able to fix me."

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