Brave gun victim regains his powers of speech and rebuilds life after miracle face transplant

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Updated: January 29, 2013
Richard Lee Norris

A BRAVE victim of a gun-accident who underwent a face transplant has regained his powers of speech.

Miracle man Richard Lee Norris made headlines around the world last year after doctors at the University of Maryland released photos that chart his amazing recovery from horrific injuries.

He has now spoken his first words unaided since he lost part of his lower face due to a gunshot wound fifteen years ago – and doctors say he is further improving very day.

“Everything from the scalp to the midline of my neck was replaced, including the jaw bones, teeth, part of my tongue, muscles, and nerves,” Norris told a newspaper in the USA.

Richard, 37, from Virginia, underwent the transplant in a 36-hour operation that involved 150 doctors and nurses.

He has now regained at least 80 per cent of his movement on the right hand side of his face and 40 per cent on the left

Doctors have described is progress as “an amazing feat”.

Richard, who has injured when a gun he was holding accidently discharged, received the new face last March from an anonymous donor whose organs saved five other patients’ lives on the same day.

Dr. E. Albert Reece, Dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, said: “It’s an unprecedented and historic procedure that we believe will change, if you will, the face of medicine now and in the future.”

Richard before his accident (left) and soon after his op.

Richard is pictured above (left) before his accident and also in the early stages after the transplant. We are not publishing photos of his original injuries as they are too shocking.

Following the accident, Richard locked himself away for many years, only venturing out wearing a large baseball cap with the visor pulled down.

But now he is a true inspiration to others for the way that he is rebuilding his life.

In a written statement before he regained his powers of speech, Richard has said: ‘I am now able to walk past people and no one even gives me a second look.

“My friends have moved on with their lives, starting families and careers. I can now start working on the new life given back to me.“

The surgery he underwent involved ten years of research funded by the US defence authourities and will serve as a model for helping war veterans injured in Afghanistan.

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