BALTIMORE (AP) — The University of Maryland Medical Center's trauma center on Saturday celebrated a gift that transformed the lives of six people and made possible the most extensive full-face transplant yet.
The annual fundraising gala paid tribute to Joshua Aversano, a 21-year-old White Hall man who died in March 2012 after he was hit by a van. Aversano's heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and face were donated to six patients.
The event, part of a campaign to support Shock Trauma's new critical care tower, also honored 90 others — from the EMS workers and Shock Trauma staffers who worked to save Aversano's life, to the teams who later coordinated and performed the transplants.
Aversano's family is still adjusting to life without him.
"The past year has been very difficult for our family as we adjust to the loss of Joshua in our lives," the family said in a statement. "We are grateful Joshua's legacy continues through the lives of the individuals he was able to save with gifts of organ and tissue donation."
Face transplant patient Richard Norris, 38, spent 15 years living as a recluse and hiding behind a surgical mask, but after the surgery he has said people pass him without a second look. In addition to the replacement of skin and underlying nerve and muscle tissue from scalp to neck, his surgery involved the replacement of both jaws, teeth, and tongue.
In a statement, Norris thanked Aversano and his family for their "heroic generosity" and the people at the medical center who cared for him. Since the surgery, he has been focusing on his recovery and adapting to being back out in the world.
"I have come full circle from a man who once hid from the world to a man who now embraces it," he said.
John Jenkins, 57, of Essex, received a new heart from Aversano. The former commercial roofer spent 26 months on the transplant list before getting the call to head to the hospital for surgery.
Now, he can get around the house better and do more with his grandsons.
"Every morning when I wake up, I thank God and the young man who gave me the heart," he said in a telephone interview.
Jenkins said he is familiar with the loss Aversano's family is dealing with, after losing his own son in a motorcycle crash 18 years ago. That experience prompted him to register as an organ donor, never knowing he'd be a recipient of a donated organ himself one day.