In 1997, a shotgun exploded in 22-year-old Richard Lee Norris’s face, leaving him horribly disfigured. Norris had arrived home drunk, which led to an argument with his mother. He took a shotgun from his gun cabinet and told his mum he was going to shoot himself. He put a shell into the chamber and the gun unexpectedly went off on his face.
The accident left Norris with no teeth, no nose and only part of his tongue. He was still able to taste but couldn’t smell. For 15 years, Norris barely left his house, choosing to shop at night time to avoid as many people as possible.
But in 2012, Norris was given a second chance thanks to ground-breaking reconstructive surgery. Using the donor face of 18-year-old Joshua Aversanos, who died in motor vehicle accident, Norris’s face was completely reconstructed.
Donor Joshua Aversanos (L) and 18-year-old Richard Lee Norris (R)
It took a team of 19 surgeons a whopping 36-hours to complete the procedure. The transplant reconstructed Richard’s facial tissue, upper and lower jaws, teeth and a portion of his tongue. Since it was the first of its kind, the operation was extremely controversial, and Norris was only given a 50 per cent chance of survival.
Lead surgeon Dr Edwardo D Rodriguez said: “This individual has not lived for the past 15 years as you and I know it. He’s been living behind a mask. This is clearly a transforming event.” Head over to the next page to see the results of the operation and discover Norris’s own thoughts on how his life has changed since the groundbreaking operation.
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