It goes without saying: each day medicine breakthroughs are simply astonishing. If a few years ago, heart transplantation was still experimental, now surgeons and technology have made it possible to perform even successful face transplants. One man underwent the most extensive face transplant in history. He waited 15 years of hiding behind a mask before he could get to enjoy a brand new life.
Richard Lee Norris is a 37 year old man from Hillsville, Virginia. He has spent the last 15 years of his life hiding his face behind a mask and away from people after he was disfigured in a gun accident. Five other possible candidates were taken into consideration for the face transplant, but physicians selected him. Before the surgery, Norris hoped the face transplant would give him back his life.
As experts with the University of Maryland Medical Center explain, Norris received a whole new face, including teeth, jaw and even a nose. The procedure, ruled by experts as the most extensive face transplant in history, was performed late last week, and now Norris, still in recovery, is trying to adjust to his new face.
Officials with the University of Maryland Medical Center say that Norris has started to feel his face, brush his teeth, shave and even got his sense of smell back. In other words, he is now able to perform the routine of every other people. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., Chief of Plastic Reconstructive and Maxillofacial surgery at the Maryland Medical Center said:
“It’s a surreal experience to look at him. It’s hard not to stare. Before, people used to stare at Richard because he wore a mask and they wanted to see the deformity”.
The first face transplant has been performed seven years ago. Norris’ marks the 23rd face transplant and Rodriguez seems to be most excited by it. He even said that although Norris carries the face of the donor, somehow there’s no resemblance. “It’s a combination of two individuals, a true blend” said the doctor.
Transplant surgeon Rolf Barth said that Norris “was the perfect patient to put into practice what we had discovered in the laboratory”, referring to the fact that transplants that required significant amounts of bone marrow with the patient’s own blood supply were less likely to be rejected.