Facing the Future: Part Five

Richard was just 22 when he was involved in a gun accident. He missed out on the next 15 years hiding behind a mask -- seriously disfigured, living life as a recluse.  I asked him what he thinks when he looks back on those dark days. He said he doesn't look back. Instead, he's looking forward.

"Sometimes you gotta quit asking 'why me.' And people say that all the time 'God, why me?'  Why not you? You don't want nobody else to carry your burden," said Norris. "So you deal with it. You move forward you hope that you can help others. "

Richard is helping others. He counsels patients who are suffering from similar injuries at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore and at NYU Langone in New York City.

Back home in Hillsville, Richard has reconnected with old friends through social media and email.  That's  where we began to share what our families have been up to and what we've been up to, Billings said.

Rodney says he's glad to have his buddy back. "Richard still walks like Richard. He still has the same sense of humor," Billings said. "He's still the same person. He may have a different face, but he's just a character and he's the same guy."

Richard still loves fly fishing.  He showed us his fishing gear while we were at the family home in Hillsville.  It's one thing he never gave up -- even during the years he lived as a loner.

He also still loves the computer.  He's studying online for an Information Technology degree from Wytheville Community College. 

And as we found out firsthand, he definitely likes to joke around.  His mother said his sense of humor came out when he woke up in the hospital at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. 

"The first thing he said to me in Baptist when he came out of the coma was 'Mom, God put you on your back to make you look up,'"

During a serious interview when I asked him what it's like to go out in public these days without a mask, this was his answer.  "It's just like you, Jean. People ask for my autograph."

This was his reaction to his mother's request for more grand kids: "She already has two and two dogs. What more does she want? " Richard joked.

The family says faith and a sense of humor have gotten them through the tough times.

Throughout the process of meeting Richard in Hillsville and in New York City, we got to know him as not just a facial transplant patient but as he hopes everyone will see him -- as just a normal guy.

What does Richard see now for his future? "A normal future. Just to have a normal life," Richard said.

"I'd love to see him get back to a normal life taking much less medication, living alone, being independent, " said lead surgeon Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the Chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.  "Being a functional member of society just like you and I that no one really knows that he was a face transplant patient,  just a normal guy living a normal life which is just what he wanted. He just wanted to be an average person. "

Note: The black and white pictures in the video are copyright to Coos Hamburger 2012. All Rights Reserved. Click here to see more photos: http://www.thetwofacesofrichard.com/

Click here to read  and watch video from Part One of the story: http://www.wdbj7.com/news/local/facing-the-future-follow-up-on-hillsville-man-two-years-after-facial-transplant/-/20128466/24395306/-/item/1/-/okdrp2/-/index.html

Click here to read and watch video from Part Two of the story: http://www.wdbj7.com/news/local/facing-the-future-richard-norris-new-face-revealed/-/20128466/24420858/-/12lex6f/-/index.html

Click here to read and watch video from Part Three of the story: http://www.wdbj7.com/news/local/facing-the-future-richards-recovery-at-home-and-in-new-york-city/24436196

Click here to read and watch video from Part Four of the story: http://www.wdbj7.com/news/local/facing-the-future-the-research-and-the-national-spotlight/24490936