Posted : July 2014Author : Zohar Strugatsky
Richard Norris, 39, started a new chapter in his life after a miraculous procedure gave him a new face. The Virginia resident lost most of his face after he accidently shot himself in 1997. His lower jaw, lips, tongue, and nose were blown off and his face was left disfigured. For the next 15 years, Norris locked himself inside his parents’ home and would rarely step out. All the mirrors in the house were covered so he wouldn’t have to look at his own face.
This nightmare continued for Norris until his mother found a Baltimore-based doctor named Eduardo Rodriguez, who specializes in plastic and reconstructive surgery. Rodriguez was willing to help, and he started with partially reconstructing Norris’ face. The recovery began with the doctor creating a nose and chin out of the patient’s flesh, but he wanted to go farther than that. The ultimate goal was to give Norris a brand new face, which Rodriguez believed was possible using a human cadaver. The procedure - which would replace the patient’s own face with that of a deceased donor - was extremely risky, as it required removing Norris’ face and there was no guarantee he would survive. However, this was a risk Norris was willing to take as this operation could help regain his life back.
With that, the doctor and his team of 150 began the 36-hour-long operation on March 19, 2012. The entire face of the donor was taken off: muscle, blood vessels, nerves, and even bones. The disfigured parts of Norris’ face were also removed, and the new face was hammered and sawed in. Norris made a full recovery, including regaining much of the sensation in his face. His miraculous and one-of-a-kind procedure gained a lot of attention by the media, and he was even approached by a GQ writer to be interviewed and photographed for the magazine’s August 2014 edition.
Richard told GQ that after his story went public, he started getting many fan letters. One of those fans even became his girlfriend. “A drop of hope can create an ocean, but a bucket of faith can create an entire world,” said Norris regarding his experience. The first full-face transplant in the nation took place in 2011, and since then dozens of individuals have benefited from the procedure, thanks to deceased organ donors and specialized surgeons.