Richard Norris got full facial transplant, is now on the cover of GQ

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Man Who Underwent Full Facial Transplant Featured In GQ

For 15 years, Richard Norris lived in seclusion with his parents in rural Virginia -- now, he and his new face are featured in GQ. Before his surgery, the mirrors in their home were all covered because Norris couldn't bear to see his reflection after accidentally shooting himself in the face with a shotgun.

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Richard Norris gets facial transplant surgery
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Richard Norris got full facial transplant, is now on the cover of GQ
In this June 18, 2013 picture, Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who led the surgical team that performed Richard Norris’ face transplant, photographs Norris at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. In the 15 years between a shotgun blast that ravaged the bottom half of Norris' face and the face transplant -- considered the most extensive face transplant performed to date -- that ended a hermit-like life for him, he faced cruelty from strangers, fought addiction and contemplated suicide. Now he's starting a new life with the hope that his life path will send a message of hope to people in similar situations and encourage empathy in others. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
In this June 25, 2013 photo, Richard Norris looks out from the porch of his home in Hillsville, Va. The man whose face was disfigured by a gunshot spent 15 years as a recluse, but now the 38-year-old is doing things he never would have before. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
In this June 25, 2013 photo, Richard Norris, right, shows friend Andrew Kahle how to load line into a fly fishing rod at Norris' home in Hillsville, Va. Norris, whose face was disfigured by a gunshot, spent 15 years as a recluse, but now the 38-year-old is doing things he never would have before. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
In this June 25, 2013 photo, Richard Norris ties a fishing fly at his home in Hillsville, Va. The man whose face was disfigured by a gunshot spent 15 years as a recluse, but now the 38-year-old is doing things he never would have before. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., Chief of Plastic, Reconstructive and Maxillofacial surgery at the University Medical Center, explains the most extensive full face transplant completed to date performed on Richard Lee Norris, pictured at left, during a news conference Tuesday, March 27,2012 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., Chief of Plastic, Reconstructive and Maxillofacial surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center talks with reporters about the most extensive full face transplant completed to date performed on Richard Lee Norris, pictured at right, after a news conference Tuesday, March 27,2012 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)
In this June 18, 2013 picture, Richard Norris completes homework for an online art history college course after visiting with doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. In the 15 years between a shotgun blast that ravaged the bottom half of Norris' face and the face transplant -- considered the most extensive face transplant performed to date -- that ended a hermit-like life for him, he faced cruelty from strangers, fought addiction and contemplated suicide. Now he's starting a new life with the hope that his life path will send a message of hope to people in similar situations and encourage empathy in others. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
In this June 18, 2013 picture, Richard Norris's skin is inspected by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who led the surgical team that performed Norris’ face transplant, during a visit at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. In the 15 years between a shotgun blast that ravaged the bottom half of Norris' face and the face transplant -- considered the most extensive face transplant performed to date -- that ended a hermit-like life for him, he faced cruelty from strangers, fought addiction and contemplated suicide. Now he's starting a new life with the hope that his life path will send a message of hope to people in similar situations and encourage empathy in others. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
In this June 18, 2013 picture, Richard Norris sits in the office of Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who led the surgical team that performed Norris’ face transplant, at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. In the 15 years between a shotgun blast that ravaged the bottom half of Norris' face and the face transplant -- considered the most extensive face transplant performed to date -- that ended a hermit-like life for him, he faced cruelty from strangers, fought addiction and contemplated suicide. Now he's starting a new life with the hope that his life path will send a message of hope to people in similar situations and encourage empathy in others. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
In this June 25, 2013 photo, Richard Norris ties a fishing fly at his home in Hillsville, Va. The man whose face was disfigured by a gunshot spent 15 years as a recluse, but now the 38-year-old is doing things he never would have before. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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Norris underwent a full facial transplant in March 2012, and his story is featured on the latest cover of GQ, which is well known for its celebrity cover models.

Writer Jeanne Marie Laskas asks, "What's it like to live with a face that wasn't yours -- and that may never quite be?"

The GQ story explains that one day while searching the Internet, Norris' mother discovered Eduardo Rodriguez, a reconstructive facial surgeon from the University of Maryland who "promised Richard he would make him normal."

The face came from a donor, 21-year-old Joshua Aversano, who was killed in a road accident. The 36-hour surgery didn't come without risks.

According to Mayo Clinic, facial transplant patients have to remain on drugs to suppress their immune systems for the rest of their lives, making them vulnerable to disease.

GQ's story is compelling, and the fact that it's displayed on the cover is sparking further conversation.

The Telegraph writes, "The star of [GQ's] latest American issue marks a radical departure for the magazine, and provides one of the most extraordinary and life-affirming stories in its history."

In a similar editorial decision last month, Australian Women's Weekly featured a burn victim on its cover.

That choice garnered major praise from other media outlets like Refinery29 and USA Today and from the public and journalists alike on social media.

And the GQ story fulfills part of the mission Rodriguez saw for his patient years ago. In 2012, Rodriguez told CNN Norris could become an inspiration: "Just to see him and the potential he has to integrate in society and be a spokesperson for patients with these types of injuries ... and will be the right person to lead this charge to help others."

You can head to GQ's website or pick up its latest issue to read Norris' full story.

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