THE STORY

This is the story of thirty-seven year old Richard Lee Norris, the recipient of the most extensive face transplant performed to date. After suffering a shotgun blast to the face in 1997, Richard spent the next 15 years in virtual isolation, shunned by society. Living with his parents in a rural Virginia town, Norris would only venture out late at night while wearing a surgical mask. Then, on March 19, 2012, Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez led a team of five surgeons in a 36-hour marathon of restorative surgery. They successfully transplanted the face of Joshua Aversano, a twenty-one year old pedestrian struck by a vehicle who succumbed to a non-survivable brain injury. In addition to the skin and the underlying facial muscles, the team transferred Aversano’s upper and lower jaw, tongue and teeth. The groundbreaking medical effort was supported by over 150 medical professionals, working in six shifts, at the University of Maryland Medical Center R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. With foundations in basic research supported by the Department of Defense, the new techniques discovered by the Maryland team offer hope to a vast number of armed services personnel suffering from similarly devastating facial wounds caused by IED blasts on the fronts of war, and have changed the understanding of transplant rejection. Now, for the first time, Norris enters the public sphere with his incredible tale, featured on NBC’s Ann Curry Reports. With uniquely unrestricted access to Norris prior to surgery and embedded with the surgical team during Norris’ procedure, hospital stay, and recovery, Coos Hamburger brings a classic documentary perspective to this remarkable medical miracle in both text and photographs. The work brings awareness to the courageous journey made by the medical institution, physicians and the patient and sheds light into the darkness of living with severe facial deformity. Norris’ tale is one of inspiration and redemption, and a shining testament to the power of transformation to do good.