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Face transplant called most extensive yet

Richard Norris, before and after face transplant surgery.


Richard Norris, before and after face transplant surgery.

BALTIMORE - After 15 years of wearing a mask and living as a recluse, a 37-year-old Virginia man disfigured in a gun accident got a new face, nose, teeth, and jaw in what University of Maryland physicians say is the most extensive face transplant ever performed.

Richard Lee Norris of Hillsville is recovering well after last week’s surgery, beginning to feel his face and already brushing his teeth and shaving, University of Maryland Medical Center officials announced Tuesday. He has also regained his sense of smell, which he had lost after the accident.

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It is hoped that the transplant will give Norris his life back, said Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the lead surgeon.

“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,’’ Rodriguez said. “Now, they have another reason to stare at him, and it’s really amazing.’’

Rodriguez showed a 1993 photo of Norris, beside a pretransplant photo of Norris’s shortened face with a sunken mouth and flattened nose.

He then showed a photo taken on Monday; Norris’s face appears ordinary, other than stitches along his hairline and neck and scarring around his eyelids.

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