Richard Lee Norris received the very first full face transplant by physicians at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and is now recovering from the 36-hour surgery.
Richard Lee Norris, 37, was an otherwise normal person, until a horrific gun accident changed his face forever. Norris accidentally shot off his nose, lips and other parts of his face in 1997, and was forced to live as a recluse until a medical team at University of Maryland Medical Center stepped in.
"It's a surreal experience to look at him. It's hard not to stare," Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the lead surgeon on the case, told Daily Mail.
The various constructive surgeries Norris had undergone had repaired some parts of his face- in the before and after pictures, we see his eyes looking relatively normal- but until an anonymous donor's family gave a body up for scientific use, Norris had to hide his face behind a mask at all times.
"Before people used to stare at Richard because he wore a mask and they wanted to see the deformity," said Rodriguez, referring to the 15 years the gun accident took from the unfortunate man.
"Now, they have another reason to stare at him, and it's really amazing," added the surgeon.
Where there was only a stitched, scarred hole in Norris' face, there is now a complete nose, lips, cheeks, and jawbone- a far improvement from the results after 12 previous plastic surgeries.
What's more impressive is Norris' recovery: only six days after the surgery, the man regained the ability to move his tongue, eyes, and jaw, giving him easier access to his all-liquid diet.
"He's actually looking in the mirror shaving and brushing his teeth, which we never even expected," Rodriguez said.
The procedure was the result of a 10-years-long foray seeking ways to help war veterans. U.S. soldiers had come from Iraq and Afghanistan maimed with shrapnel from IUDs or gunfire, so a grant from the Office of Naval Research allowed doctors to attempt to fix the grisly results.
Over a 100 doctors, nurses, and medical staff combined their efforts to help Norris survive the operation, as he was one chosen of five to undergo the procedure. He was very grateful.
"He put the mirror down and thanked me and hugged me," said Rodriguez.