He is the face of success.
A California man who underwent a grueling facial transplant earlier this year has revealed himself to the world on Thursday.
After being shot in the head during a suicide attempt in June 2016, Cameron Underwood, 26, of Yuba City, had lost most of his lower jaw, every tooth, except one, from the nose, and had suffered serious damage to the maxillary. and the palace.
Underwood, a welder and machinist with depression, has tried several times to resort to conventional reconstruction surgery before discovering Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez at NYU Langone Health in Manhattan.
"When we read what Dr. Rodriguez had done for his other patients, we knew that he was the only person we would trust for Cameron's life," said Beverly Bailey-Potter, the mother from Underwood. "We were willing to travel long distances."
Nearly 11 months after 25 hours of operation, Underwood strives to live the life he once knew playing outdoors, playing sports and spending time with friends and family. He even skydived after the operation.
"I'm so grateful to have a face transplant because it gives me a second chance in life," Underwood said, wearing a baseball cap, to a NYU Langone audience.
"Although I still recover and find sensation and mobility, mostly with my lips, I am always very happy with the results," said Underwood. "I have a nose and a mouth, so I'm able to smile, talk and eat solid foods again."
Rodriguez said that during his first meeting with Underwood, he was "confident", that he and his team could improve Underwood's appearance and quality of life.
"For all of us, it's really remarkable to be part of this initiative and to make it happen," Rodriguez said. "There is no way to bring him back to a normal life without a facial transplant."
Rodriguez led a team of more than 100 health professionals to carry out the operation, which began Jan. 5 and required the use of a surgical plan in 3D and in the US. a 3D printed face mask of the donor – a new approach for the medical team system.
The operation makes it the second facial transplant for NYU Langone Health and the third performed under the direction of Rodriguez.
Due to the severity of Underwood's injury, Rodriguez and his team had to graft all the lower and middle components of the skull and face of the 23-year-old dealer, William Fisher, from Manhattan.
Fisher, a Johns Hopkins University student and aspiring writer and filmmaker, died suddenly on New Year's Eve 2017 after a long battle with mental illness, hospital officials said.
The procedure included the transplantation and reconstruction of the upper and lower jaw bones, including the 32 teeth and gums, the roof of the mouth, the lower eyelids and cheeks, the nose and sections of the nasal passage.
"Breathtaking," Underwood said while describing what he had felt the first time he'd seen with his new face in the mirror.
"It was exciting from the excitement."
The miraculous transplant of Underwood's face has taken a decisive step.
It took about 18 months from the time Underwood was injured to undergo surgery, making it the shortest possible time between an injury and a transplant in the United States.
Other milestones include the longest distance traveled for a facial transplant – 2800 km – and one of the shortest wait times for a donor, which was six months.
"My son's death was a tragedy," Fisher's mother, Sally, said in a statement. "I am grateful that in honoring his decision, we were able to give life to other people, and in particular that Will and Dr. Rodriguez gave Cameron and his family a chance to find their dreams."
She continued, "Being part of this experience has been a source of strength for me during a very difficult time. I do not think I would have survived Will's death without Cameron. Cameron has his whole life in front of him – and I like the idea that Willie helps him lead a better life. "
Fisher, who had enrolled as an organ donor in adolescence, was identified as Underwood's donor the day before the surgery.
Rodriguez said that prior to surgery, Underwood and his family had had an "unprecedented" meeting with Fisher's mother at the hospital.
The emotional meeting was captured on video.
"Thank you for letting my son live," Sally told Underwood, hugging him, according to the movie.
Rodriguez called it an "honor" to "see these families come together and donate an unconditional love for their children".
On Thursday, Underwood thanked Rodriguez, NYU Langone Health, his family, as well as Fisher and the Fisher family.
"I will always honor Will's legacy," said Underwood with tears.
He added, "I would like to say that there has been so much amazing progress in the field of surgery. I am living proof of that. But this only happens through special people like Will and his family. "