Seeing your late sibling’s face on a stranger is a peculiar experience. This was exactly what a woman experienced when she met the stranger who has her dead brother’s face after one of the world’s most advanced face transplants.
Rebekah Aversano and Richard Norris’s meeting turned out to be an emotional rendezvous.
Rebekah and her family agreed to donate Joshua’s face after he was hit by a van three years ago while crossing the road in the United States.
June 2 nd, 2015
Rebekah amazed when she met the man who is wearing the face of her late 21-year-old brother, Richard Norris, for the first time.
“Do you mind if I touch it?” Rebekah asked him during the soul-touching reunion filmed by 60 Minutes Australia, an Australian television show. As she gently raised her right hand to his forehead, she said “Wow, this is the face I grew up with…”
Joshua’s mother, Gwen, said it was the right thing to do. “We can definitely see our son in him,” she said. “Some of the facial features would definitely be our son, so we could see similarities…very much so. We are just pleased we have been able to help him. Even though we had such a tragic loss, we were able to give someone else the benefit of our son.”
Richard Norris (39) had facial deformities after accidentally shooting himself in the face in 1997 when he was 22. He said he had lived through hell before the transplant. He ventured out at night to minimise contact with people and wore a mask to disguise the injuries caused by the accident.
Norris chose the facial transplant even though doctors said that he only had 50% chance to survive. He could have died during the procedure. Surgeons removed previous skin grafts and only left protection for his eyes before transplanting the new face. The surgery only left his eyes and the black remnant of his throat unchanged.
The surgery, which lasted 36 hours, was performed by a team of specialists at the University of Maryland Medical Center. It was the most extensive surgery of its kind, according to doctors.
Norris has to abstain from alcohol and smoking for the rest of his life. He also must avoid getting sunburned and must take a cocktail of anti-rejection drugs.
During a fundraising event, he voiced his gratitude to all who have made this possible.
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