Woman Meets Man Who Received Her Brother's Face in Transplant: 'It's So Familiar to Me'
Richard Norris made medical history when he received the first ever full face transplant -- a face that once belonged to Rebekah Aversano's brother, Joshua.
Rebekah, 28, traveled to meet Norris - and INSIDE EDITION caught her astonishment on camera.
“You have my brother's face," she told him. "It’s so familiar to me. It’s hard to see where my brother ends and you begin. His ears. Nose. Lips. Teeth. Hair. Everything belonged to my brother.”
Rebekah's 21-year-old brother Joshua had dreamed of becoming a Marine but his life came to a sudden end in 2012 when he was hit by a car and was killed instantly.
“Losing my brother was hardest thing ever went through," she told INSIDE EDITION. "It was completely and utterly devastating."
In the midst of this heartbreaking crisis, doctors asked the family to make a difficult decision.
“They asked us if we would consider donating his face,” she said. “They told us it was Richard’s only hope."
Richard was just 23 years old when a shotgun blast accidentally blew away half of his face.
For the next 15 years, Richard, originally from Virginia, lived as a recluse, rarely going outdoors and hiding his face behind a mask.
She said: “We have power to give someone another chance at life.”
Her brother's face was close to an ideal match.
Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez outlined the 36-hour operation at the University Of Maryland Medical Center. He led a massive team of 150 doctors and nurses transplanting bone skin and facial muscles.
Today, Richard can barely believe his transformation, saying: “No words to describe it. I had a face back.”
Incredibly, from the back of his head to the bottom of his neck, the skin was transplanted in one complete piece. That explains why there are no scars.
He can finally face the world without a mask as he walks down the streets of New Orleans.
The 38-year-old has to take daily medication for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting the transplanted face. He is slowing gaining full use of his facial muscles.
His face can now feel the tender touch of his girlfriend Melanie, who said: “He's the one. He's a keeper.”
For Rebekah, the fact that another man is wearing her brother's face is helping her to overcome her grief.
“My brother died and yet I’m looking at him right now," she said. "I have to smile when I look at Richard because this is a complete miracle."
The duo has now launched a foundation called The Joshua Aversano Transplant Relief Foundation. For more information, visit their Gofundme page.
Watch Below: Troubled Teen Dies in Police Chase after Receiving Heart Transplant