When Chrissy Steltz agreed to co-host a spring break house party in March of 1999, she had no idea that by the end of the night, she would be missing half of her face. It was a miracle that she survived the horrifying ordeal which unfolded on that fateful night, and it is a testament to the advancements in modern medicine that she now looks so different after getting a new face years later.
“It’s spring break,” Chrissy Steltz recalled of the night in March of 1999 when she would ultimately lose half of her face. “We’re all, you know, doing what teenagers shouldn’t be, you know, drinking. And I went into the back room and offered them orange juice, and I saw one of my friends with the shotgun.”
As her friends toyed with the shotgun, Steltz was accidentally shot at point-blank range. Will O’Brien, her boyfriend at the time, found her a few minutes later. “I don’t know if you have ever seen like a wounded animal trying to get up?” said O’Brien. “That’s what I saw. I saw an injury that nobody survives, except somebody really strong. And she was trying to get up.”
Steltz was rushed to the hospital, where doctors found that three-quarters of her face had been destroyed by the blast. Though the medical staff was able to save her life, they were not able to save her nose and eyes. “The blast itself removed the contents of her left eye socket, removed her nose and the supporting mid-facial structures and damaged her right eye to the extent that she lost vision,” explained Dr. Eric Dierks.
Steltz was placed in a drug-induced coma for six weeks as her family hoped for the best. They knew that she would have some brain damage, but they would not know the extent until she woke up. When the teen eventually regained consciousness, her long road to recovery truly began.
“When I finally knew what had happened to me and that I had lost my sight and that it would never be coming back,” said Steltz, “I knew I could sit back and have a pity party, or I could figure out what to do and go about doing it, and that’s exactly what I did.” She would spend the next eleven years wearing a sleep mask at all times until doctors were finally able to make a prosthetic face for her.
Using photos from when she was 16, doctors made a mask that looked just like the face Steltz once had. Then, a team of experienced physicians removed the damaged tissue on her face, created a breathing passage, and added dental implants into her facial bones. The results can only be described as amazing.
“When anybody finds out how I went blind, their first comment 99 percent of the time is, ‘I’m sorry.’ And my response to that is, ‘I’m not. I lived,'” said Steltz. “There’s nothing to be sorry about living through something like that. Don’t be sorry for me. Be happy for me. Be proud of the fact that I have gone on with my life.”
Chrissy Steltz is a truly inspirational woman. Her outlook on life is incredible considering everything she has been through, and her story is a reminder that most of the issues we face day-to-day are minuscule compared to a life-altering event like the one Steltz lived through. Please share her story to inspire others to live each day to their fullest potential just as she has done.