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Rebekah Aversano meets man wearing her dead brother's face after groundbreaking transplant

Published 29/05/2015

Rebekah Aversano has met the man wearing her dead brother’s face after one of the world’s most advanced face transplants.

Ms Aversano and her family agreed to donate 21-year-old Joshua’s face after he was run over by a van while crossing the road three years ago in the US.

She met the person who received it for the first time for 60 Minutes, an Australian television show.

Richard Norris, 39, was left suicidal by his facial deformities after accidentally shooting himself in the face and the transplant in 2012 changed his life.

His first encounter with Ms Aversano was filmed for 60 Minutes.

“Do you mind if I touch it?” she asked, reaching for his face. After Mr Norris complied she stepped back in shock, saying “this is the face I grew up with”.

The programme is being broadcast on Channel 9 in Australia on Sunday.

Joshua’s mother, Gwen Aversano, told CTV News in Canada that the family was glad its “tragic loss” had helped someone else.

“We can definitely see our son in him,” she added. “Some of the facial features would definitely be our son, so we could see similarities, very much so.”

Mr Norris had worn a mask and lived as a recluse in Hillsville, Virginia, because of his injuries for 15 years before the operation.

Richard Norris is seen before (left) and immediately after his face transplant surgery
Richard Norris is seen before (left) and immediately after his face transplant surgery

He accidentally shot himself in the face aged 22 in 1997, blowing off his nose, cheekbones, lips, teeth and jaw.

After years of skin grafts, Dr Eduardo Rodriguez carried out the 36-hour face transplant with a team of surgeons at the University of Maryland, making his patient an overnight global sensation.

Mr Norris could have died during the procedure, when surgeons removed all previous skin grafts to leave just part of his tongue and minimal protection for his eyes before attaching the new face.

Dr Rodriguez said that although Mr Norris had a donor’s face, it was a “true blend” of the two.

His patient agreed, telling GQ last year: “When I look in the mirror, I see Richard Norris.”

Source: Independent

Independent News Service

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