The Full Face Transplant
Jeanne Marie Laskas wrote an incredible feature at GQ about Richard Norris, who two years ago received the “face of a recently deceased 21-year-old man,” transplanted as “one solid flap, skin, muscle, bone, nerves, blood vessels, tongue — everything as one piece.” The arc of the story as Laskas spends time with Norris is remarkable, and so are the plain facts of what happens when you cut off someone’s flesh to the skull and then attach another face on top of it:
“You get yourself in your mental game. It’s fourth and goal, and we are going into the end zone. We’re going to win the Super Bowl. This is the moment of no return. Complete silence in the room; like, holy mackerel. Tough moment. No failure. This is it. We’re going to make this thing. The face is one unit. I’m picking it up. I’m laying it on him. I’ve got to get everything centered, it can’t be off-kilter, the nose has gotta be straight, everything’s gotta land perfectly.
“Now, this organ is not receiving blood. It needs to receive blood. The longer it takes to receive blood increases the chance for acute rejection. We gotta get this thing drinking.
“Connecting the artery, then the vein, and then we release, and it really is like a miracle. Impressive. You see the blood just coming from the neck, crossing the lips. Seeing the nose — it’s white and it turns pink, like normal flesh. It takes seconds. And now we’re thinking, Okay, I can take a little breather, but we still have to push ahead, I have to get Richard out of the operating room. We still have to connect the nerves, a lot of nerves. We have to suture the inside of his mouth and tongue; everything has to be sutured. And fix the rest of the bones. Line up the soft tissue. Line up his hairline. Line up his eyebrows. Get the eyelids. So all that needs to happen.”
We gotta get this thing drinking. In related news, here are the 50 most beautiful people in DC.