NEW YORK (PIX11) -- You can't tell from looking at her now, but Ilianexy Morales was slashed, stabbed and cut 40 to 70 times, across her face, head, neck and body. It was nothing short of a miracle Morales is alive today to tell her story.
She survived a vicious attack in 2005 at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Musa Bhuiyan. Bhuiyan is now serving a 15 year prison sentence for attempted murder, felony assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
Just days before Morales ended their relationship in July 2005, Bhuiyan insisted the two talk but instead he unleashed into a nearly murderous assault inside Morales' mother's Washington Heights apartment. In her mother's bedroom, with her bed ridden mother and home aide nurse in the adjacent room, Bhuiyan pulled a large knife and started stabbing Morales.
"Even when I saw the knife in his hand I didn't think he was serious," said Morales.
Horrifyingly, Morales was conscious the entire time and as she bled, nearly decapitated, she could only beg Bhuiyan to stop.
"I told him leave me alone. I'm already dead. I told him I'm already dead. I really didn't think I would survive this. There were so many wounds, so many stabs that I couldn't possibly survive this," recalled Morales.
Instead of running away, the man who Morales said never displayed any signs of violence in the past, pulled up a chair next to her body to watch her slowly die.
"He just sat there. He was still cutting me. I remember he was cutting me in the back of my neck. I just had this feeling he was trying to cut my head," said Morales.
Morales' screams and cries for help didn't go unnoticed. Her mother's nurse managed to run out of the apartment and call police. Morales said she saw officers rush into the room, work to keep her conscious before she went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance.
Morales has had more surgeries than she can count. Her arms were in danger of amputation and even today her movement is limited. For a beautiful 23-year-old woman, however, it was the visible scars across her face and neck that became the real challenge.
"For a long time I didn't allow people to go to my house" said Morales.
After months of living like a recluse, rarely leaving her home, Morales learned of a program known as Face to Face, reconstructive surgery offered to victims of domestic violence for free. The program was created in 1994 to give women like Morales another chance.
Dr. Andrew Jacono has been involved with Face the Face since his days as a resident. Nationwide the program helped more than two thousand people. In the tri-state area alone, more than 50 plastic surgeons, including Dr. Jacono are active participants and much of the medical costs and time coming out of their own pockets and practices.
Just two weeks ago, we met Josephine Hodge, Dr. Jacono's most recent patient.
Since 2006, Hodge said she was ashamed of her nose after the tip of it was sheared off when her ex-boyfriend threw her through a glass window.
"I cried everyday. It wasn't a day that I didn't cry when I looked in the mirror. I got to the point I didn't want to look in the mirror or walk past a glass and see my face. It was a nightmare," recalled Hodge.
But that nightmare, Hodge said, is now over. She's had the surgery she dreamed about and says she can now put the past behind her and move forward to a new chapter in life.
For more information about Face to Face, please visit the AAFPRS website.