Face transplant recipient's mom learns about renowned reconstructive surgeon: Part 2

Cam Underwood had already undergone multiple surgeries on his disfigured face when his mother Bev first read about the work of Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez.
5:43 | 11/17/18

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Transcript for Face transplant recipient's mom learns about renowned reconstructive surgeon: Part 2
Sunday, June 26th, 12:17 am. Mom calls and says cam shot himself and they're headed Rideout. Reporter: Cam Underwood's sister Julie started writing in a diary as her brother's life was hanging in the balance at Rideout memorial hospital. Even now her written words are hard to fathom. Doctors tell my parents cam's face is dust. And that if he even lives, he will not see or talk. Reporter: The 24-year-old put a loaded shot gun to his chin, an attempt to take his own life. But it didn't work. The blast, which commonly happens in these scenarios, before the projectile comes out of a firearm, there's usually pressure fire. That usually is enough to deflect the face. And that's why most individuals that attempt this miss their brain. Reporter: In the aftermath, searing words from the emergency room doctors. They were not very gentle with us. They said there was nothing left. They said his face was dust, and he would not make it. They told us he had no tongue, no teeth, no chin, no cheekbones, no facial structure. Nothing! They asked us if we wanted to go in and see our son. How do you go in and look at your son when there is nothing left? Reporter: How do you prepare yourself as a mom to see that? I don't know. Hoping that you're dreaming and you wake up and it was all a nightmare. That's what you hope for. Reporter: The reality, incomprehensible. His face, so gruesome, we've elected not to show you some of the photos the family gave us. It wasn't really a face, you know. It was pretty horrific. Reporter: So horrific, they move cam to a top trauma facility, uc Davis medical center. It took our breath away when Cameron came into the unit. It was so devastating. Reporter: And incredibly, it appears cam will survive after all. But survive with a fate perhaps worse than death. How do you live without a face? There's no plastic surgery that could ever make him look completely Normal again. He's gonna have to live the rest of his life looking and feeling like a monster. Reporter: Renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Lee pu does what he can to sustain life, implanting 12 titanium plates to keep what's left of cam's shattered skull intact. I took a titanium plate and plate his nose, interorbirtal rim, mid face, upper jaw. Reporter: He can't breathe or eat on his own. Cam was alive. But how could he ever really live? I cried every day for a year. Every single day. I would've changed places with him any day. I would've taken his pain any day, but I couldn't. What kind of quality of life would he have, if he didn't want to live with all that he had going for him? Then why would he want to continue on now? Reporter: It was six months before cam could leave the hospital, and even then, he would wear a mask everywhere he went. And I would see people stare at him and he would notice that. The worst part was the little kids, kind of hide or stare at him and hang on to mom and dad because he looked so pitiful. Reporter: But then cam's doctor, Dr. Pu, uttered the words would change cam's fate forever. Though at first, they sounded more like science fiction than medical science. Face transplant. I'm thinking, face transplant? You know, can they actually -- what is a face transplant? We had never heard of such a thing ever. Reporter: And no sooner did Bev find herself at the checkout counter of her local grocery store, coincidentally thumbing through this issue of "People" magazine. How fated was that? And it wasn't on anything on the outside of the cover that caught my attention.. Reporter: The article inside about a face transplant. It was the same story that ABC news "Nightline" had already covered. The story of Patrick Hardison, a Mississippi fireman who was horribly disfigured trying to rescue a woman from her burning home. The ceiling collapsed, and I could just see everything coming down. Reporter: Like cam, Patrick would survive, but his scalp, ears, nose, eyelids and lips were gone. In 2015, at nyu Langone medical center in New York, Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez agreed to perform what was then the most extensive face transplant ever done. I'm saying, get me back as Normal looking as you can. Reporter: The operation took 26 hours. This was the amazing transformation! All made possible, because of a donor. A reminder that one man's mortality is another man's miracle. So, it's no wonder. As soon as Bev learns about that story -- A face transplant. It's like something out of a movie. So you pick up this magazine, and you see the name Dr. Rodriguez. Reporter: All she can think of is what Dr. Rodriguez might mean for her son. And so I decided that I would go ahead and send an email to Dr. Rodriguez. Reporter: But cam will first have to prove he wants a second chance at life. There was reluctance because of the concern to take away his life during a bout of depression. Reporter: The fact that he had become this disfigured. Correct. Reporter: Because he attempted suicide.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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