Angel Flight makes Va. man’s facial transplant possible

Kathy Stewart,

WASHINGTON – After spending 15 years as a recluse, Richard Norris received a facial transplant seven months ago that his doctors say is slowly giving him a normal life.

But Norris, 37, of southwest Virginia, is doing better than expected partly because of a special group of volunteer pilots who helped him.

Steve Craven, the chairman of a Leesburg-based nonprofit organization called Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, says the group has flown Norris to Baltimore 82 times since 2007. Since Norris lives in an extremely rural part of Virginia by the North Carolina border, Craven says it would have been nearly impossible for him to travel north once a month in order to prepare for the transplant surgery.

Craven says the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore asked the group to help facilitate this because of where Norris lives.

“The University of Maryland thanked us and recognized the fact that if it were not for our assistance, they could not have achieved this remarkable surgery,” he says.

Craven says he had the privilege of flying Norris five times.

“It’s truly a privilege to help people that are in need,” he says.

Angel Flight began in 1974. The charity was started in Gaithersburg by a former federal employee, who has since retired.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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