Sometimes, we encounter a story which restores our faith in humanity. This is one of them.
Three years ago Richard Norris of Virginia received a face transplant transforming his life. Now, the sister of the man whose death made that possible, came face-to-face with Norris for the first time.
“No, not at all,” was Norris reply when Rebekah Aversano asks if Norris would mind if she touched his new face, in a gut wrenching encounter.
“Wow,” was the word Rebekah uttered as she gently touched his forehead, adding that, “This is the face that I grew up with.”
After the 21-year-old Joshua Aversano was killed in a traffic accident, his family donated his face for transplant.
So on March 2012, the pioneering surgical procedure gave, then 37-year old Norris, a new leash on life.
In 1997, a gun accident took away much of his upper and lower jaws, lips and nose, which needed the support of a trachea tube to breathe.
Specialists from the University of Maryland Medical Center performed the 36 hour procedure, involving replacement of both jaws, his tongue, a whole set of teeth, skin and underlying nerve and muscle tissue. In essence, except for his eyes and back throat remnant, his entire face was replaced.
Norris’ surgery was the most extensive surgery of its kind, doctors said.
Norris described the dramatic change the donation made in his life, in a statement released in October 2012.
“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,” he stated.
Before adding, “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.”