Underwood, in Yuba City, California, maintained a self-sustained shot in his face in June 2016. The major damage left him…
Underwood, in Yuba City, California, maintained a self-sustained shot in his face in June 2016. The major damage left him missed most of his lower jaw, his nose and every tooth but one, said a statement. He also experienced injuries to his upper face and palate.
Conventional reconstructive surgery, which he reportedly tried several times, could only do so much.
Then, Underwood’s mother Beverly Bailey-Potter read a newspaper article about Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, a professor of reconstructive plastic surgery and the chairman of the plastic surgery department at NYU Langone Health.
“We knew he was the only person we would rely on Cameron’s life,” she said in the release from the hospital. “We were willing to travel the long way.”
Since the first face transplant was made in France in 2005, over 40 have been carried out around the world.
NYU Langone Health has implemented two of the procedures and has a special face transplant program, one of just a handful in the United States. Rodriguez completed two previous face transplants, the first at the University of Maryland, and led a team of more than 1
00 doctors who tackled Underwood’s fall.
Transplantation surgery lasted about 25 hours.
Underwood’s trip has been marked with milestones.
The time between his injury and face transplant was about 18 months, the shortest period between the two in publicly reported cases in the United States, said the hospital.
This is important to help his physical, emotional and psychological recovery, said Rodriguez.
“Cameron has not lived in harmony for a decade or longer as most other face transplant recipients have,” Rodriguez said in the statement. “As a result, he has not had to deal with many of the long-term psychosocial problems that often lead to problems such as severe depression, addiction and other potentially harmful behaviors.”
Underwood also experienced one of the shortest waiting times for a donor, said the hospital. Once he was approved for a transplant by NYU Langone and listed on organ donation list, he only waited six months at the beginning of the January conversation that would change his life.
His donor was William Fisher, a 23-year-old resident of New York who was an aspiring filmmaker and writer. Fisher, who registered as organ donor when he was a teenager, gave more than just Underwood. He also gave his heart, kidneys, liver, eyes and other tissues.
To commemorate her son’s wishes, Fisher’s heartbreaked mom got something in return.
“Being part of this experience has been a source of strength for me during a very difficult time,” she said in the statement. “I do not think I would have survived Will’s death, unless for Cameron. Cameron has his whole life in front of him – and I love the thought that Willie will help him get a better life.”
Underwood was released from the hospital in mid February but originally resumed in New York for rehabilitation, which included speech therapy and orthodontic treatment. At the end of March he was home in California – but he has made monthly trips to New York for follow-up visits.
He will remain on anti-repellent drugs throughout his life, but so far he has responded well. And he is grateful for this second chance in life – and the medical team and donor who made it possible.
“We hope my experience inspires others who have severe facial injuries to have hope, because I was inspired by others who came before me,” said Underwood in the statement. “The trip has not been easy, but it’s been worth it.”