Ann Curry Reports   |  June 29, 2013

A Face in the Crowd, Part 5

Richard sees himself with his new face. And he speaks exclusively to Ann Curry.

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

>>> welcome back. now comes the moment that's taken 15 years to reach, the moment richard norris risked his life for. he's about to see his new face for the first time and so are you. you're also about to hear richard in his first television interview. he is no longer a man hiding from the world. for the first time in 15 years richard was about to see himself with a fully formed face. con un rostro plenamente formado

>> and he looks in that mirror, and he looks at himself. it was probably one of the most emotional moments for me and for all of us in that room to see h him. excuse me.

>> it's okay. do you remember what he said?

>> yeah. he thanked me, and he hugged me.

>> there wasn't a dry eye in the house. it was very, very emotional.

>> because you knew he didn't just get his face back.

>> this was the start of his life again.

>> we are about to show you an image that may be difficult to look at, but it will allow you to see richard 's stunning transformation. this is how richard looked before his surgery. and after more than a year here he is today. for the first time in 15 years he can smell and taste again. he shaves like had a normal 38-year-old and has teeth to brush. his hair has blended with joshua 's the donors, and with minimal visible scars it's not obvious he's had a face transplant .

>> straight look at me, richard .

>> dr. rodriguez concedes richard 's face is not perfect, but he says it pushes the boundaries of medical science .

>> it's the most extensive and most comprehensive face transplant in medical history .

>> cup.

>> that's a little harder.

>> a year after the surgery richard is still in the early stages of learning how to use his new speaking apparatus. now jaws, new lips and a new tongue. dr. rodriguez is hopeful richard will be able to improve his speech significantly with long-term therapy. still, richard agreed to sit down with us for his first television interview.

>> at this moment sitting in front of the camera after so many years hiding, what is this experience like for you?

>> . 3 f2 xon dien doto.

>> a miracle. i saw a miracle that was performed there.

>> in that moment dr. rodriguez was very nervous. he said the only opinion that really mattered was yours.

>> i don't know what to say to him, just to give him a hug.

>> soon after the surgery richard showed signs of renewed confidence. his childhood friends who had barely seen him in 15 years noticed his new profile picture on facebook.

>> for the longest time it was pictures of baltimore.

>> yeah.

>> one day he took a picture of himself in the airplane as the pilot, and then he changed his profile picture. i'll never forget that day.

>> what did it say to you that he did that?

>> he's back. he's back.

>> he's back, yeah.

>> richard 's new life means new freedoms, like simply going outside without worrying. earlier this year he decided to test his new appearance before tens of thousands at a football game . now, he's just another face in the crowd.

>> did people stare at you?

>> no.

>> for the first time in years?

>> i walked around, i hold my head up.

>> in his new life richard is already spreading his wings. he is studying information systems technology, eager to start working again, and he hopes to have his own family one day. he also wants to start a foundation to raise awareness about the value of transplant surgery and to help people with deformities. what do you want to say to those people?

>> don't give up. it took me 15 years. i still got a life.

>> richard believes his experience offers valuable perspective, and he is clearly emotional about the risk he took to help service men and women who are wounded.

>> why was it so important to risk your life?

>> pause if i have to sacrifice my life to help the families get back theirs, it's worth it.

>> that your suffering would have had meaning?

>> that's right.

>> richard 's surgery might in fact make an impact for future patients after some remarkable discoveries.

>> he has sensation throughout his entire face. doesn't make sense. we didn't connect any nerves to his teeth, but he doesn't like his water too cold and doesn't like his coffee too hot. his beard bothers him so these are things we don't understand.

>> but the most important finding potentially with significant implications for transplant surgery in i don't know is that because richard received so much of joshua 's bone and marrow he might require less anti-rejection medication.

>> just one of the small possibilities of this incredible miracle.

>> you call it a miracle?

>> yes.

>> but you're the doctor.

>> still a miracle because for everything to happen as it happened, ere had to have been some kind of divine intervention .

>> rodriguez makes regular progress reports on his findings to the department of defense which funded richard 's surgery. the office of naval research which receives reports says the findings are a significant advancement in transplant medicine and a glimpse into the future. to see what you've done for richard means what to you?

>> that the realm of impossibility no longer exists from facial transplantation.

>> but our story does not end with richard 's successful surgery and hope for wounded warriors, because a year after living with his new face richard wanted to meet the people whose self-less act had changed his life, joshua 's parents, randy and gwen , and they wanted to meet him. an extraordinary meeting was arranged. randy and gwen were going to meet the man who had received their son's face.

>> your mind tells you what to expect, but you really don't know until that actual moment is presented before you.

>> gwen had said that if she ever saw someone with her son's face she would give him a big hug.

>> and did you reach out