How Richard Lee Norris went from face transplant patient to cover star

Katie Grant@kt_grant
Wednesday 30 July 2014 09:40
Celebrities

Richard Lee Norris will be appearing on the front of next month's GQ magazine (Picture: GQ)

Ready for his close-up?

A face transplant patient might sound like an unlikely candidate when it comes to gracing the cover of a glossy magazine, but Richard Lee Norris, who underwent groundbreaking surgery in 2012, is set to appear on the front of next month’s GQ magazine.

Isn’t that a spot usually reserved for airbrushed models for readers to ogle?

The powers that be at the US edition of the publication decided to make an exception and award the space to Mr Norris, 39, given his remarkable experiences. In 1997, when he was 22, he arrived home drunk and got into an argument with his mother. In the heat of the moment, he grabbed a shotgun, pointed it at his own face and told his mother he was going to shoot himself. The gun went off accidentally, shattering the lower half of his face. He lost his nose, jaw, teeth and most of his tongue.

Richard Norris before the accident, shortly before surgery and immediately afterwards (Picture: AFP/Getty)

That sounds horrific…

Mr Norris spent the next decade living as a recluse in Hillsville, Virginia, only leaving home to go shopping at night, concealing his face with a surgical mask and a baseball cap. In 2012 he underwent one of the most complex face transplants in history, involving 150 doctors and nurses at the University of Maryland Medical Center, during which he received teeth, a jaw and a tongue from a donor.

But he lived to tell the tale?

Yes, and GQ readers aren’t the only people to benefit from his story. Dr Eduardo Rodriguez, who performed the operation, said that when Norris opted to undergo the intense procedure, he was agreeing to take on an enormous responsibility. “He never really thought about himself in all of this,” Dr Rodriguez told GQ. “He’s always thought about helping the wounded warriors and the other people, and providing hope. He’s a remarkable man.”

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