Richard Lee Norris Face Transplant: Gun Accident Victim Receives New Face In Breakthrough Surgery [PICS]

By Amir Khan on October 17, 2012 3:03 PM EDT

Richard Lee Norris
Richard Lee Norris, who was injured in a gun accident in 1997, is now able to walk outside again without worrying about people staring, thanks to the most extensive face transplant ever performed. (Photo: University of Maryland)

Richard Lee Norris, who was injured in a gun accident in 1997, is now able to walk outside again without worrying about people staring, thanks to the most extensive face transplant ever performed. The 37-year-old from Virginia has lived as a recluse for the last 15 years, but has now regained not only his looks, but his sense of smell as well.

Richard Lee Norris accidentally shot himself in the face in 1997, losing his lips, nose and most of his mouth. While he had several life-saving surgeries, he was horribly disfigured. He had numerous reconstructive surgeries to repair his jaw bone and other aspects, and recently received an extensive face transplant.

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"I am now able to walk past people and no one even gives me a second look," he told NBC. "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."

The transplant was performed at the University of Maryland by hief of plastic, reconstructive and maxillofacial surgery Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez.

"Before, people used to stare at Richard because he wore a mask and they wanted to see the deformity," Rodriguez said in March. "Now, they have another reason to stare at him, and it's really amazing."

The surgery was funded by the Office of Naval Research, and researchers said the technique could one day be used to help soldiers wounded in combat. More importantly though, Dr. Rodriguez said the surgery is giving Richard Lee Norris a second chance.

"This accidental injury just destroyed everything," he said told the Daily Mail. "The rest of his friends and colleagues went on to start getting married, having children, owning homes. He wants to make up for all of that."

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