In 1997, Richard Lee Norris, 37, was horribly injured by a gun accident that blew away most of his face. For the last fifteen years, he has lived as recluse, wearing a mask and shopping at night. Avoiding the normal day-to-day social interactions that most of us enjoy was his life, because the stares and comments were just too painful.
But seven months ago, Norris underwent the most extensive facial transplant in history at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma at the University of Maryland Medical Center. His progress has amazed doctors and even himself. The transplant team replaced Norris’ whole face, including his tongue, both jaws, teeth and nose in 36 hours. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., D.D.S., associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chief of plastic, reconstructive and maxillofacial surgery, served as the transplant team leader.
“For the past 15 years, I lived as a recluse hiding behind a surgical mask and doing most of my shopping at night when less people were around, I can now go out and not get the stares and have to hear comments that people would make. People used to stare at me because of my disfigurement. Now they can stare at me in amazement and in the transformation I have taken.
I am now able to walk past people and no one even gives me a second look. My friends have moved on with their lives, starting families and careers. I can now start working on the new life given back to me.”
“I am doing well. I spend a lot of my time fishing and working on my golf game. I am also enjoying time with my family and friends. I do still have follow-up appointments with a lot of different doctors and therapists to ensure everything is healing up properly. I have been undergoing physical therapy and also speech therapy. I have been doing very well regaining my speech back. Each day it improves a little more.”
The surgery used state-of-the-art surgical practices and computerized techniques as well as transplanting “… all facial soft tissue from the scalp to the neck; this included the underlying muscle so that his face could move as he expressed himself, with all the sensory and motor nerves eventually restored with full feeling and function.”