Just three months later, in March 2012, Norris received the fullest face transplant to date at the University of Maryland Medical Center. His new jaws, teeth, tongue and skin: the generous gift of a family mourning the loss of their 22-year-old son, Joshua Aversano, who was brain dead after being struck by a van.
"Not only were the two compatible physiologically; similar size faces, same hair color, same skin complexion, same blood type, but the similarity in lifestyle choices was almost a smile of destiny," Hamburger wrote, adding that Joshua was nearly the same age as Norris at the time of his accident. "The coincidences were genuinely uncanny – but would, in time, offer some comfort to the Aversanos – knowing Richard would be a perfect steward for their son's legacy."
Hamburger documented the marathon operation and its incredible result, describing in his book the moment Norris' mother, Sandy, saw her son's new face for the first time and rushed to call her husband back in Virginia.
"Eddy," she said, according to Hamburger. "He looks like Richard we had before… and he's beautiful.'"
Now 38 years old and more than a year out from his life-changing operation, Norris is living outside the shadows, dedicating his life to helping people with facial trauma.
"He is especially committed to helping wounded warriors, recently afflicted with the injuries and the physical and emotional damage he had come to know so well for so long," Hamburger wrote in his book, adding that Norris plans to start a Foundation for Facial Trauma to help cover the cost of surgery.
Norris has also stayed in touch with his donor's parents, Randy and Gwen Aversano.
"Richard is acutely aware of the sacrifice this family has made, not only for him but for other organ recipients," Hamburger said. "He has dedicated his life to honoring Joshua's legacy and to carrying forth his desire to help others."