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See New Photo: Face Transplant Patient Celebrates Life In Public

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- His story is both tragic and amazing. A Virginia man who had a face transplant in Baltimore has a new outlook on life.

As Kai Jackson reports--a life that he's now more comfortable living in public.

It was groundbreaking surgery when Richard Norris had a face transplant in March 2012.

A historic procedure, according to the doctors who performed it at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

"It's the first face transplant of its kind. It's the most extensive and most comprehensive face transplant performed to date," said Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, surgeon.

This is Richard Norris today. In a statement to the Associated Press, he says:

"Those ten years of hell I lived through, it has given me such a wealth of knowledge."

In 1997, Norris, from Hillsville, Virginia, was shot in the face in a gun accident. He was disfigured and lost his nose, lips, teeth and most of the movement in his mouth.

"You can walk out your front door and your life can be changed in a split second," Norris said.

We first heard Norris speak publicly at a Shock Trauma gala in April.

"To the heroes who stand behind us, thank you," he said.

Depressed, Norris lived a hermit-like existence. But Norris received a new life after the tragic death of 21-year-old Joshua Aversano. He was hit by a car and his family donated his face for the surgery.

No longer a recluse, Norris is now living a public life. He's even taking online classes.

He honored Joshua at the Shock Trauma gala.

"Thank you for the years you spent preparing to give me a new life," Norris said.

Richard Norris is now 38-years-old. A team of 150 doctors and nurses were involved in the operation, which lasted a day and a half.

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