‘I missed being able to eat’: Man, 26, who received a face transplant after losing his mouth, nose and eye sockets in a suicide attempt describes his joy as he meets the mother of his donor.
Cam Underwood tried to take his own life in 2016. This year, he got a face transplant from a donor, Will, 23. Footage of the moment Cam met Will’s mom Sally for the first time will be screened tonight.
When Cameron Underwood woke up in hospital with no face except for a forehead, eyeballs and tongue, he couldn’t believe what he was told.
On June 26, 2016, the then-24-year-old had taken a gun, held it under his chin, and pulled the trigger.
He had battled depression for years, and he had once pithily said to his parents that he’d considered suicide, but he didn’t think he would truly try to take his own life.
But there he was, waking up from five weeks of heavy sedation, alive against all the odds but with no face – unable to eat and talk, struggling to breathe, and ashamed to see anyone without wearing a mask.
He thought that was his fate forever.
He never expected that today, two years later, he would be eating, chatting, feeling confident – thanks to a face transplant, and the incredible heart of Sally Fisher, who agreed to let her son, Will, be a face donor after he died suddenly at the age of 23 following a battle with mental illness.
Transformation: Cam Underwood was 24 when he tried to take his own life with a shotgun while drunk in June 2016 – and he later could not believe he’d done such a thing. He lost everything below his eyes but surgeons managed to patch him up (left). On January 5, 2018, he was admitted for a face transplant (pictured, center, shortly after; pictured, right, recently)
Tonight, footage of the moment Sally and Cam met for the first time, with Sally weeping in disbelief as she embraces Cam, and Cam describing the small, unexpected joys of regaining a face.
‘I’m so glad you’re here,’ Fisher said to Underwood as the two hugged. ‘I’m so glad.’
Cam’s mother Bev Bailey-Potter – who was the one that found the face transplant unit – gasped saying, ‘Oh, Sally. Oh, my goodness, you’re the courageous one and giving my son the chance to be normal again. I mean, he looks so fantastic.’
Sally turned to Cam and added: ‘I know, you look beautiful. I guess I’m a little biased. I think you’re drop-dead gorgeous.’
Cam, now 26, said learning to use his mouth teeth and lips is ‘just like a baby learning to talk.’
‘I can smile, I’m working on closing my lips all the way, they don’t close all the way… but they’re getting there,’ he said. ‘They’re a lot better than they were.’
Above all, he relishes ‘being able to actually eat.’
‘Just to let it sit in your mouth and taste it,’ he said. ‘All those little things that we take for granted that you know, you miss and you want back.’