Gun Shot Victim Transformed After 'World's Most Extensive Face Transplant' (Video)

First Posted: Jun 28, 2013 11:47 AM EDT

A U.S. gunshot victim who received the world's most extensive face transplant has revealed the final results of this groundbreaking surgery that's not only transformed his appearance, but helped transform his life.

Just at 22, Richard Lee Norris endured serious injuries from a brutal gun accident that would change his life and appearance forever. The incident destroyed parts of his face, including portions of his upper and lower jaw as well as his lips, nose and tongue, according to The Telegraph.

Following the incident, close friends and relatives said he became somewhat of a hermit while he lived at his rural Virginia home, while coping with depression, addiction, and even thoughts of suicide.

"I've heard all kind of remarks," he said, according to the Associated Press. "A lot of them were really horrible".

Now, 15 years later, after undergoing a 36-hour surgery last year in March, he's not only regained facial sensation, but is able to smile and has learned to talk again.

"When I was disfigured, just walking the sidewalk, I was surprised that more people didn't walk into telephone poles or break their necks to stare at me," he said, according to the AP. "Now ... there's no one paying attention. Unless they know me personally, they don't know I am a face transplant patient. That right there is the goal we had."

As Norris continues to undergo post-surgical therapy to help bring his life back to where it once was, visiting doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Centre in Baltimore, where the extensive transplant was performed, he's feeling more at ease with life and ready to return to living in the present and the future instead of the past.

Want to see actual footage of the surgery? Check out this video, courtesy of YouTube.

Face transplant surgery typically ranges from a 12-36 hour long procedure, depending on how much of the face can be restored and how much trauma has been endured. Patients spend time in a surgical intensive care unit for at least one week following treatment and are then moved out of the SICU to a transplant unit, where specifically designed care for each patient is determined. Most transplant patients should expect to be in the hospital for anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks, according to John Hopkins Medicine.

There is also an extensive list of requirements most must take into account before undergoing a face transplant, including the following: You must be 18 to 60 years of age; have facial trauma or disfigurement; no history of HIV or hepatitis C; able to take immunosuppressive drugs; no history of cancer for at least five years and willingness to forgo pregnancy for up to one year.

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