Ann Curry Reports   |  June 29, 2013

A Face in the Crowd, Part 3

21 year old Joshua Aversano, who had recently signed up with the Marines, was struck by a vehicle and taken to the same hospital where Richard was a patient.Joshua’s parents took the extraordinary decision to donate their son’s face to Richard.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in early 2012 , nearly 15 years after a shotgun accident, all that stood between richard and life-changing face transplant surgery was finding a matching donor. cynthia, who was helping to prepare richard for the surgery, was all too aware of what finding a donor would mean.

>> it was difficult. we were all so hopeful for richard for so long in anticipation of his transplant, but there are two sides to this story, and the transplant only comes because of the loss of another.

>> richard was home in virginia, mindful of how a surgery might help service men and women, but it didn't occur to him that one of them might end up helping him. about 350 miles away in whitehall, maryland, another young man, who also loved to hunt and fish with his dad, was embarking on a new adventure.

>> just wanted things to be right, you know, and he just wanted to protect people.

>> his name was joshua aversano.

>> he just had a very loving spirit about him, even though he tried to hide it. i knew it was there.

>> randy and gwen aversano say their son was a fun loving man with a sensitive, thoughtful side, who at age 21 decided to sign up to serve his country.

>> so like, a you know, a protective dad, i said service, yeah, great. coast guard , air force . keep you safe. you can get your time in and get done. so what does he do? he joins the marines. infantry no less.

>> infantry no less.

>> yeah. he wasn't afraid of anything.

>> their brave boy joshua was due at boot camp that year when just walking across the main road with a friend he was suddenly hit by a vehicle.

>> what is the location of your emergency?

>> randy and gwen were visiting new york when they got the call from their daughter.

>> they said he was crossing over and was hit by a van he did not see.

>> you say this very quietly.

>> i say it quietly, but inside i couldn't hardly believe what she was saying.

>> joshua was airlifted to the shock trauma center , the very same hospital where richard was a patient. randy and gwen hurried to be by his side.

>> the one thing i prayed was please, don't let him die.

>> at the hospital joshua was lying in the icu hooked up to a respirator. i was holding his hand, didn't want to give up the last hope.

>> though he was hit by a van joshua 's body showed few signs of trauma but after multicall tests and scans and after temporarily disconnecting joshua from the respirator doctors deemed the injury of the brain was too severe to survive on his own.

>> i give credit to shock trauma . i'm sure they did everything they possibly could, you know, for him and for us.

>> your prayers weren't answered?

>> no, they weren't, and i would sit there and tell him i would trade places with him in a moment, which i would have.

>> randy and gwen , who have a strong christian faith , believe that although joshua 's body was still alive, his spirit had passed on.

>> it was almost like joshua was up in the corner of the room looking down on us.

>> as they faced the possibility of withdrawing life support for their son, they were approached by a maryland organization called the living legacy foundation with a request to consider donating their son's organs.

>> we did not give a final answer at that moment, but each of us realized that it was the right thing to do, to help others, and joshua had mentioned it previously.

>> had josh ever signed an organ donor card?

>> i thought he had, but, no, he did not.

>> we just felt like this is something that he would want to do, you know, out of this tragedy something good could happen.

>> the donation team asked about joshua 's kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and heart. randy and gwen consented, and then he heard about richard 's case.

>> what was it about richard 's story that made you think i think i might be able to donate my son's face to him?

>> he was our son's age, maybe a year older, when he went through this devastating accident.

>> it is one thing to donate your child's organs, but it is an entirely different thing to donate your child's face. gwen , you're nodding. you know what i'm asking.

>> i do, i do. it was a difficult decision at the beginning. i know i did tell randy at the time, if i ever saw someone walking around that had -- the first thing i would go up and give him a big hug.

>> but that seemed unlikely at the time.

>> you didn't know the surgery was going to work.

>> no, and we understood that.

>> but, still, you went with it.

>> it was richard 's only hope.

>> after they signed the papers, they said good-bye to their only son.

>> leaving your child laying there, and they are warm, as if they are just sleeping, and they are going to wake up any minute, that i think was the most differ.

>> it was a stunning moment of generosity and grace from one family to another.

>> i found it difficult to believe. i thought, my god, what is this family being asked to do? i don't know if i could have made that decision. knowing richard i'm still not sure i could have done it.

>> richard got an urgent call telling him a donor with matching blood type, immune system and size had been found. he boarded another angel flight for baltimore, fully aware it might be his last. after years of living in hopelessness, wanting a normal life , richard 's fate was about to be decided in the operating room . how much fear was there in you?

>> certainly fear, no question. there's no going back now. this thing has to work. and