Chrissy Steltz was just 16 years old when a friend at a party accidentally shot her in the face with a shotgun. Her injuries were catastrophic.? Her eyes were destroyed, her nose lost, much of her face missing. Paramedics couldn't believe she was even alive.
"That was my first thought as we were going in the door," recalled paramedic Merlin Curry back in 1999. "I didn't think she was alive."
Curry was one of many emergency responders called to a home in Southeast Portland March 21, 1999. Steltz was with friends with someone found a stolen 12 gauge shotgun in the home. According to police a friend accidentally pulled the trigger. ? Over the next decade as Chrissy recovered and grew up, the teenager became a woman. Though she went on living her life, she was always reminded of that night.
Wednesday, Chrissy's life changed once more. In a four hour surgery at Legacy Emanuel Hospital, Dr. Eric Dierks created a small hole in a bone once used to stabilize her face. Where most have a nose, for Chrissy it was solid.? Since the accident, she's been forced to breathe through her mouth. ? "Some of us may think we're mouth breathers, but we need an opening there to breathe through, so I created that," said Dierks.
The surgery was just the first step in a much larger recovery.
?In the coming months a series of titanium dental implants will be inserted into Chrissy's face.? Once the implants are in place, a prosthetic will be created. The device will have two non-functioning eyes, a nose and cheeks.? Chrissy will have the appearance of a normal face.
To her partner Geoffrey Dilger and their newborn son, it means the world.
"I think our son being able to look at her and see an actual face and not look at a mask will be a good thing," said Dilger.
Chrissy Steltz still has a long road ahead, though it's amazing how far she's already come. ? "I just feel like things are getting better for us you know. Things are working out," said Dilger.