The results of the most comprehensive face transplant in history are absolutely incredible

In 1997, Richard Norris was shot in the face. The accident almost cost him his life, and, even after years of reconstructive surgery, left him without significant portions of his face and jaw.

Today, thanks to what surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center are calling the most comprehensive face transplant surgery ever performed, Norris has a new face. He also has new teeth, a new tongue, and a completely new set of jaws. The transformation has been nothing short of incredible.

To say that Norris has a fresh lease on life may just be the understatement of the century. According to Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez — who led the team of over 100 scientists, doctors, and medical staff involved in the 36-hour procedure — Norris has been recovering much faster than anyone could have expected; the surgery was performed just last week, and already Norris is learning to control his tongue and facial muscles, regaining feeling in his face, and has already resumed shaving and brushing his teeth. Not only is Norris the first full face transplant recipient in the U.S. to retain his eyesight, he's actually reacquired his sense of smell — another thing he'd lost as a result of the gun accident.

It was the 23rd face transplant ever performed, and qualifies as the most extensive on record because it involved the transplantation of teeth, tongue, and jaws, in addition to the donated facial tissue. What's more, the fact that the transplant included so much facial tissue has actually reduced the amount of visible scarring significantly. Reuters has called the transplant "the most aesthetically successful to date" — and we're inclined to agree.

Hats off to all the medical and scientific staff involved in this unprecedented feat; to the anonymous donor, whose organs reportedly saved the lives of five other patients on the same day as Norris' procedure; and to the family of the donor, for agreeing to the procedure in the first place (consenting to be an organ donor doesn't typically extend to face donations). [Reuters | CBS News]
Top image by Hamish McKenzie via Reuters