Sister Donates Her Dead Brother's Face to a Disfigured Man and Then Meets Him

60 Minutes Australia

This is so surreal.

This is so surreal.

Three years ago, Rebekah Aversano's 21-year-old brother died after being run over by a car. Her family donated his face to 39-year-old Virginia man Richard Norris, whose face was severely disfigured in a 1997 shooting accident.

With only a 50 percent chance of survival, Richard underwent an incredibly complex face transplant surgery. Now, three years later, we see Rebekah meeting the man wearing her brother's face for the first time on this Sunday's 60 Minutes Australia.

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Watch the preview below.

"This is the face that I grew up with," says Rebekah, who sees and even touches the man's new face for the first time.

Before the surgery, Richard was depressed and suicidal. He had undergone dozens of operations to try and repair portions of his face that didn't really work. He would only go out at night, and wore a mask to minimize contact with others, who could often be cruel.

"I've heard all kinds of remarks," he said. "A lot of them were really horrible."

Rebekah's mother Gwen Aversano told CTV News in Canada that the family definitely sees the resemblance between Richard and their late son.

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"We can definitely see our son in him," she said. “Some of the facial features would definitely be our son, so we could see similarities, very much so."

While they are still hurting over their loss, Gwen adds that they are happy benefiting Richard.

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"We are just so pleased we have been able to help him. Even though we had such a tragic loss, we were able to give someone else the benefit of our son," she said.

Face transplants are an incredibly new medical procedure, with the first partial transplant being performed on a French woman in 2005. Since then, 27 transplants have been performed worldwide, of which four patients have died.

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Richard is apparently the first full facial transplant patient in the United States to retain his eyesight.

While Richard cannot drink, smoke, get sunburned, and has to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life, he must be grateful for this historic procedure.

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