Man receives face transplant after accident
***WARNING: Some of the images in this video are graphic***
MIAMI (WSVN) -- A man who survived a gun accident that left him with a disfigured face has received a face transplant.
In 1997, Richard Lee Norris survived a gun accident that disfigured his nose, lips and part of his jaw. Ashamed of his appearance, Norris became a recluse and wore a mask to hide his scars.
However, 10 years of research at the University Of Maryland's Medical Center changed Norris' life. A team led by Miami native, Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, performed the world's most intricate face transplant. "It's an amazing procedure we had rehearsed and practiced for quite some time with a small group of surgeons," said Rodriguez, "really, an elite group of individuals."
A week after the surgery in March, the swelling was far from subsiding but a remarkable transformation was set in motion. Seven months after the 36-hour operation, Norris was left feeling like a new man.
Following the procedure, he regained the ability to taste, smell, smile and talk, with the help of extensive therapy. "Now his tongue is moving appropriately," said Rodriguez. "His tongue meets the front of his teeth, so he can pronounce the 'l's and the 'T's, something he hadn't done in a long time and learning how to eat. All of that is progressing wonderfully."
Norris later released this statement: "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 can now start working on the new life given back to me."
"He's done great, he's a superb patient. He works remarkably hard," said Rodriguez. "He's been practicing speech therapy three times a week--physical therapy. He's really a committed individual, and he is really the real hero of this story."
While Norris is forever grateful to the donor family that provided the foundation for his transformation, the Office of Naval Research and the Department of Defense are also celebrating after funding the breakthrough research.
Researchers hope Norris' face transplant will lead the way to helping war veterans, who have suffered traumatic head and facial injuries in war.
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