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The facial transplant patient Cameron Underwood shows an incredible transformation

It's been less than two years since 26-year-old Cameron Underwood woke up and missed most of his face. His nose, jaw and teeth were destroyed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound during Cam's fight against depression. Now the Californian can smile, eat and talk again thanks to a 25-hour face transplant.

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It took more than 100 medical professionals at Langone Medical Center of New York University to pull off the transformative surgery that restores Cam's face. Under the direction of dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez gave the team the face of a recently deceased 23-year-old student from Manhattan on Underwood's skull.

Underwood's medical team announced at a press conference on Thursday the success of the facial transplant that took place last January.

"It's really remarkable to be a part of it," said Rodriguez at the conference. "They can finally see their child again," he said, pointing to Underwood's parents, Beverly Bailey-Potter and Randy Underwood. Cameron Underwood Face Transplantation "title =" Cameron Underwood Face Transplant "class =" lazyimage lazyload "data-src =" https://hips.hearstapps.com/hmg-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/images/may201

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Cameron Underwood before his incident.

Courtesy Underwood Family

Although this is the second face transplant performed by Rodriguez at NYU This operation is unique in that Underwood has been waiting for a facial transplant only 18 months after his injury, and Rodriguez says many people have been suffering for years, after his surgery, Lesswood spent less time in hospital and rehabilitation than the first facial transplant at the NYU Langone This is the second NYU face graft and one of around 40 worldwide.

Cam grew up in Yuba City, California (about 40 miles north of Sacrament0) and spent his weekends with the Angel n, hunting and skiing with his older siblings Julie, Aaron and Brad. As a teenager, Cam suffered depression, explaining his family People . In his 20s, Cam used alcohol for self-medication during these depressive episodes.

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"I've seen that he had to fight, he was unhappy," Beverly told the magazine. "But I never thought he would harm himself."

On June 27, 2016, Cam turned to alcohol in a particularly hard time trying to end his life.

He was taken to the UC Davis Medical Center and placed in a medically induced coma. When he woke up, Cam did not remember the incident and was shocked by what he had done, the magazine reported. Cameron Underwood Face Transplant Class = "Lazyimage Lazyload" data-src = "https://hips.hearstapps.com/hmg-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/images/underwood -Cameron front-3-15-17-Pre-Face transplant with Peg 1543531600.jpg? crop = 1xw: 1xh; center, top & resize = 480: * "

Mary Spano

He He stayed in the hospital for five months, making three skin grafts to save his face, during which time Beverly never left Cam, the dutiful mother even lived in a trailer in the hospital parking lot.

Although Cam was finally discharged In December 2016, he was unable to enjoy simple daily activities in the hospital, and Cam no longer experienced the crunching of a chip as eating solid foods was a challenge Ending and communicating with others was a special challenge and the formerly active outdoor man could no longer play golf or ski with his family.

"His life w as on a break," says Rodriguez.

The family Hoped, however, that a face transplant could set Cam in motion again, but only as Beverly did a copy of the magazine People in the grocery store, Cams' future looked brighter. Inside was an article on the success of Rodriguez, who performed facial transplants. Beverly was inspired by the story and knew that he was the doctor of Cam.

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In February 2017 Rodriguez received an e-mail from Beverly.

"Cam really wants to leave this terrible incident behind," she wrote. "We'll go everywhere and do anything to help Cam."

In a video shown at the conference, Cam said, "It was a low time in my life, we all do things that are not ideal."

Cam was determined to move forward and roamed 2,800 Miles for a review with Rodriguez in March 2017 – a meeting that almost did not happen thanks to a blizzard.

  Cameron Underwood Face Transplant

Mary Spano

After the first evaluation, Rodriguez traveled to California and met Cam, his family, and Cam's doctors to make sure his patient had a strong support system ,

"It's a very lengthy and methodical assessment process," said Rodriguez.

Cam was also advised by a clinical psychologist he still sees what is important to transplant recipients to make sure they can handle the changes.

In July 2017, Cam was put on the waiting list to get a donor face. LiveOnNY, an organ recovery organization for Greater New York, led the search. While waiting, Cam went to the gym with his brother because the patients needed to be physically fit for the operation.

Nobody knew how long Cam would wait for a new face. Rodriguez spoke daily with Helen Irving, President and Chief Executive Officer of LiveOnNY, about possible games.

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"It's like finding a needle in a haystack," Rodriguez explained. Facial donors and recipients must agree on blood type, antibody, skin tone, hair color, and facial bone structure, according to NYU.

Cam did not have to wait long for his ideal game: 23-year-old William Fisher, a Manhattan resident and a student at Johns Hopkins University. Will was a registered organ donor who talked to his family about his desire to help others after death.

On January 5, 2018, Rodriguez and his team performed the remarkable operations. In an operating room, the medical staff removed Will's face while the doctors were preparing Cam to receive the special gift.

Until that fateful day, Rodriguez and his team performed seven rehearsals to make sure they were prepared.

"The third or fourth time you really feel like a second nature," he said in an interview after the press conference on MensHealth.com .

Transplantation was one of the most technologically advanced operations of its kind. The team used 3D models to make sure the donor face fits Cam perfectly. Will also received a 3D printed mask of his own face as a replacement.

"There are no exaggerations," said Rodriguez. "If you remove the face and look at the back of the neck, failure is not an option."

The operation went smoothly and Cam was released from the hospital earlier than expected. He describes his face as "overwhelming" for the first time because it seemed he was going to transform himself overnight.

Despite his speedy recovery, Cam still has many challenges, as the facial sensation has not been restored. The nerves take a long time to regrow. So it'll be a while before Cam regains fine motor skills, explains Rodriguez.

"They go home and try to drink something, and it's all over [the place]," says Cam. "You do not really know, are you just smiling?"

He compares the experience with Novocain at the dentist.

Cam has since returned to the adventurous lifestyle he had enjoyed before the incident. In fact, only a few months after his operation he went to his brother's case for parachuting.

But the ability to speak was the biggest change in Cam's life.

"I hated going somewhere where I had to explain something, I knew I had to write it because nobody understood anything," he explained MensHealth.com .

He misses his job as a welder and machinist, but should work again in a few months.

"I think I'm ready for that," he said.

As far as his old face is concerned, Cam does not even miss his previous identity.

"I do not see the old me," he said. "I see this cam."