'It's been well worth it': Face transplant patient reveals incredible transformation

Underwood, 26, from Yuba City, Calif., suffered from depression and shot himself in the face on June 26, 2016. Dr. Rodriguez led a team of more than 100 surgeons, nurses and staff in the marathon process of removing Fisher's face and reconstructing Underwood's jaw, lower eyelids, cheeks, nose, nasal passage, and parts of his mouth.

After a few attempts at more conventional surgery, with limited success, Cameron found Dr Eduardo Rodriguez, who works at NYU Langone Health in Manhattan.

Underwood was discharged from the hospital in mid-February but initially stayed in NY for rehabilitation, which included speech therapy, and orthodontic treatment. Fortunately, after about 18 months, Underwood was matched with a donor for a face transplant, and today he is more positive than ever that his life can go back to how it was.

Underwood spend just under two months in the hospital recovering, according to the hospital.

This is significant in helping his physical, emotional and psychological recovery, Rodriguez said.

"I have a nose, and a mouth so I'm able to smile, to speak and eat solid foods again", he says. "I also don't get as many stares or questions from strangers".

Afterwards, Underwood underwent multiple reconstructive surgeries, but it could only fix his face to a minor extent - until now. "As a result, he has not had to deal with numerous long-term psychosocial issues, which often lead to issues like severe depression, substance abuse, and other potentially harmful behaviours".

It also helped reduce surgery time to 24 hours, 11 hours shorter than the first face transplant done in 2012.

Rodriguez, chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery and Helen L. Kimmel Professor of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery at NYU's Langone Health, had performed two other face transplants, one in 2015 for a volunteer firefighter Patrick Hardison and one in 2017 for 22-year-old Katie Stubblefield. I'm also eternally grateful to Dr Rodriguez and his face transplant team. "I don't think I would have survived Will's death if not for Cameron".

"I want Shelly and her family to know how much I appreciate their gift and I will always honor Will's legacy", said.

Underwood is still learning to use his new face. "I guess I'm a little biased". I'm so happy for you.

"We're able to take advantage of the most advanced technological procedures that exist, and we can do a lot of computerized planning before we do the operation", Rodriguez said at Thursday's news conference.

A man from California has undergone a successful full face transplant after a self-inflicted gunshot wound left him with life-changing injuries. So far, his body has responded well to the transplant.

"We knew he was the only person to whom we could trust Cameron's life", Underwood's mother said. "The journey hasn't been easy, but it's been well worth it".

Underwood's journey has been marked by milestones.

And in May, a 65-year-old Canadian man named Maurice Desjardins became the oldest person to receive a face transplant after a hunting accident damaged his face. He has said that it gave him a "second chance at life".

For information and support on issues such as suicide, visit the Radio 1 advice pages.

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Vanessa Coleman

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