NEWS | November 14, 2018

Face transplant patient's story to be told by ABC's 20/20

Expert UC Davis trauma, surgical and nursing teams provided initial care

Debbie Cryder on 20/20
MSICU nurse Debi Cryder was interviewed for a 20/20 program about a patient with severe facial injuries whose features were restored with a transplant. The program airs this Friday at 10 p.m. on KXTV channel 10.

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — ABC’s news magazine program 20/20 recently filmed interviews at UC Davis Medical Center about a face transplant patient whose story — and new look — will be revealed Friday, Nov. 16, at 10 p.m. on KXTV channel 10.

The hourlong show includes the emotional first meeting between the patient, Cameron Underwood, and his donor's mother.

In June 2016, Underwood was transferred to the medical center from Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville following a self-inflicted gunshot wound that significantly damaged facial bones, soft tissue and features. Following several surgeries, including eight by plastic surgeon Lee L.Q. Pu, and more than 150 days in the hospital, his care transitioned to NYU Langone Health. It was there Underwood had his transplant in January 2018.

Lee Pu
Using a skull model, Lee L.Q. Pu demonstrated for ABC News his intensive pre-transplant surgical work for Cameron Underwood.

Face transplants are rare, with only about 40 being done so far worldwide. Pu knew, however, that the procedure was the patient’s only hope of having a near-normal face, given the extent of the injuries.

“The damage was unfortunately beyond the capabilities of contemporary reconstruction,” said Pu, who was interviewed for the program. “Our primary goals were to provide a stable bony foundation and healed soft tissue wounds to help ensure the success of the transplant surgery. We are extremely thrilled it worked out so well.”

During the filming, Underwood reunited with several nurses he formed strong bonds with during his time in the MSICU and Trauma Nursing Unit. Three of them — Debi Cryder, Catherine Finigan and Olivia Gutierrez — expressed their great fondness for him and his family on camera.

“I’ve seen a lot of miracles happen at UC Davis,” Cryder said. “I am so glad he was one of them."