Cameron Underwood is the recipient of a face transplant that restored his entire face, after a June 2016 injury that left him without the majority of his lower jaw, teeth, and nose.
Underwood was NYU Langone Health’s second-ever face transplant recipient. He has said that it gave him a “second chance at life.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Underwood Suffered a Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound to the Face in 2016
Underwood attempted to kill himself in June 2016. He didn’t die, but did end up sustaining massive damage to his face, losing most of his jaw, nose, and all teeth but one.
Underwood tried several forms of conventional reconstructive surgery, CNN reports, but those methods could only do so much. Then his mother read an article about the plastic surgery department at NYU Langone Health. She contacted the head doctor at NYU, Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, and he went on to lead a team of over 100 medical professionals on Underwood’s case.
2. Underwood’s Surgery Took a Grueling 25 Hours to Complete
According to TIME, the team of doctors who performed on Underwood’s face took 25 hours, including removing large portions of the donor’s fce, then using 3D-printed cutting guides to reconstruct Underwood’s teeth, mouth, gums, jaw, lower eyelids, cheeks, nasal and nose passages.
The time between Underwood’s injury and his face transplant was 18 months. Then, after the face transplant, he waited another 11 months to reveal his new face to the general public.
Rodriguez said in a statement “Cameron has not lived with his injury for a decade or longer like most other face transplant recipients have. As a result, he has not had to deal with many of the long-term psycho-social issues which often lead to issues like severe depression, substance abuse, and other potentially harmful behaviors.
3. Underwood’s Donor Was a Man Named William Fisher Who Registered as an Organ Donor When He Was a Teen
Underwood’s organ donor was a 23-year-old aspiring filmmaker and writer named William Fisher.
In a statement Fisher’s mother said, “Being a part of this experience has been a source of strength for me during a very difficult time. I don’t think I would have survived Will’s death if not for Cameron. Cameron has his whole life ahead of him — and I love the idea that Willie is helping him have a better life.”
4. Underwood Will Have to Remain on Anti-Rejection Medication for the Rest of His Life
Though the majority of the healing process is behind him, Underwood will have to remain on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life. But that doesn’t mean his new face isn’t sturdy- he’s already gone skydiving with it.
Rodriguez said of his patient, “A face transplant can tolerate 15,000 feet in the air. It all held together. Cam is living and he’s doing the things that he enjoys. This is the greatest thanks that they could ever provide.”
5. Underwood Has Said That He’s Grateful for His Doctors, & For a Second Chance at Life
Underwood has since spoken out about his gratitude for his team of doctors, as well as his second chance at life.
He said, “We hope my experience inspires others who have severe facial injuries to have hope, as I was inspired by others who came before me. The journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s been well worth it.”