Underwood, of Yuba City, Calif., Himself was shot in the face in June 2016. Due to the extensive damage he suffered, he lost most of his lower jaw, his nose and every tooth except one, according to a press release. He also suffered damage to the upper face and palate.
The conventional reconstructive surgery, which he would have tried many times, could only do a lot.
Then, Underwood's mother, Beverly Bailey-Potter, read a magazine article about Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, professor of plastic reconstructive surgery and director of NYU Langone Health's Department of Plastic Surgery.
"We knew that he was the only person we could trust in Cameron's life," she said in a press release published at the hospital. "We were willing to travel long distances."
Since the first facial transplant performed in France in 2005, more than 40 have been performed worldwide.
NYU Langone Health has now completed two of the procedures and has a designated face transplant program, one of the few being in the United States. Rodriguez has successfully completed two previous face transplants, the first at the University of Maryland, and has led a team of more than 100 health professionals who have treated the case of Undwood.
The transplant lasted about 25 hours.
Underwood's course was marked by milestones.
The time between injury and facial transplantation under Underwood was about 18 months, making it the shortest period between the two publicly reported cases in the United States, the hospital said.
This is important to help his physical, emotional and psychological recovery, said Rodriguez.
"Cameron has not lived with his injury for a decade or more, like most other facial transplants," Rodriguez said in a press release. "As a result, he has not had to deal with many long-term psycho-social issues that often result in problems such as severe depression, substance abuse and other potentially dangerous behaviors."
Underwood has also experienced one of the shortest wait times for a donor, the hospital said. Once approved by the NYU Langone for a transplant and registered on the list of organ donations, he waited only six months for the call of early January that would change his life.
His donor was William Fisher, a 23-year-old aspiring filmmaker and writer, residing in New York. Fisher, who enrolled as an organ donor when he was a teenager, gave more than just Underwood. He also gave his heart, kidneys, liver, eyes and other tissues.
In honoring his son's wishes, Fisher's broken-hearted mother had something in return.
"Being part of this experience has been a source of strength for me during a very difficult time," she said in a press release. "I do not think I would have survived Will's death without Cameron, Cameron has all life in front of him – and I like the idea that Willie helps him to have a life." better. "
Underwood left the hospital in mid-February, but initially stayed in New York to be rehabilitated, which included speech therapy and orthodontic treatment. By the end of March, he was at home in California, although he travels to New York every month for follow-up visits.
He will remain on anti-rejection treatment throughout his life, but to date he has responded well. And he is grateful for this second chance in life – and for the medical team and the donor who made it possible.
"We hope my experience inspires the other serious wounded in the face, inspired by those who preceded me," Underwood said in a press release. "The trip was not easy, but it was worth it."