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Patient recuperating from full face transplant

March 28, 2012|By Michael Muskal

Richard Lee Norris, who received the most extensive full face transplant to date, is continuing to recuperate from the marathon surgery, the University of Maryland Medical Center said Wednesday.

Norris, 37, of Virginia was disfigured in a gun accident and had been wearing a mask for 15 years, living the life of a recluse, according to the medical center where the procedure was performed. During 36 hours of surgery, he received a new face, nose, teeth and jaw, according to the hospital.

The patient continues to recuperate, a hospital spokeswoman said by telephone Wednesday.

When doctors announced the surgery Tuesday, they said Norris had been living as a recluse. A week after the surgery, he has begun to feel his face, is brushing his teeth and shaving, and has regained the sense of smell.

“It’s a surreal experience to look at him. It’s hard not to stare. Before, people used to stare at Richard because he wore a mask and they wanted to see the deformity,” Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the lead surgeon, told reporters at a news conference after the operation. “Now, they have another reason to stare at him, and it’s really amazing.”

The doctor showed a photograph of Norris taken in 1993 and another taken this week after the surgery. Although Norris has a donor’s face, he doesn’t resemble the donor, Rodriguez said. “It’s a combination of two individuals, a true blend,” he said.

The operation began March 19 and stretched into the next day. It was carried out at the medical center's R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center and was performed by a team of faculty surgeons and more than 150 nurses and professional staff, the center said.

The face transplant team collaborated with the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, the organ and tissue donation program serving most of Maryland. The Office of Naval Research has awarded the university grants to study transplants in the hope that the procedures can be used for military patients.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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