Seven months after receiving the most comprehensive face transplant in history, 37-year-old Richard Lee Norris is now able to come out of the shadows.

"For the past 15 years I lived as a recluse hiding behind a surgical mask and doing most of my shopping at night when less people were around," Norris said, according to a news release from the University of Maryland Medical Center, where the procedure was performed in March. "I can now go out and not get the stares and have to hear comments that people would make."

See PHOTOS of Norris before and after the surgery, story continues below:

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  • Richard Lee Norris

    In photos provided by the University of Maryland Medical Center, face transplant recipient Richard Lee Norris, the recipient of the most extensive face transplant performed to date, is seen a photo taken before the face transplant, left, and in a photo made 114 days after the transplant was performed. Norris, 37, of Hillsville, Va. received the transplant in a 36-hour operation in March 2012. It included the replacement of both jaws, teeth, tongue, and skin and underlying nerve and muscle tissue from scalp to neck. Norris was injured in a gun accident in 1997. (AP Photo/ University of Maryland Medical Center)

  • Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D.

    Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., Chief of Plastic Reconstructive and Maxillofacial Surgery explains the most extensive full face transplant completed to date during a news conference Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. University of Maryland Medical Center officials announced Tuesday that Richard Lee Norris of Hillsville is recovering well after last week's surgery and is already brushing his teeth and shaving. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

  • Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., E. Albert Reece, M.D., Stephen T. Bartlett, M.D.

    At podium, left to right, are University of Maryland Medical Center doctors E. Albert Reece, M.D., Stephen T Bartlett, M.D. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., Chief of Plastic, Reconstructive and Maxillofacial surgery at the University Medical Center and his team as they explain the most extensive full face transplant completed to date performed on Richard Lee Norris, pictured at right, during a news conference Tuesday, March 27,2012 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

  • Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D.

    Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., Chief of Plastic, Reconstructive and Maxillofacial surgery at the University Medical Center, explains the most extensive full face transplant completed to date performed on Richard Lee Norris, pictured at left, during a news conference Tuesday, March 27,2012 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

  • Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D.

    Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., Chief of Plastic, Reconstructive and Maxillofacial surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center talks with reporters about the most extensive full face transplant completed to date performed on Richard Lee Norris, pictured at right, after a news conference Tuesday, March 27,2012 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

  • Eduardo D. Rodriguez M.D., Branko Bojovic M.D., Michael Christy M.D., Daniel Bousuk M.D., A H Dorafshar

    Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., at podium, Chief of Plastic, Reconstructive and Maxillofacial surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and his team, left to right, Doctors Branko Bojovic, Michael Christy, Daniel Bousuk, partially blocked, and A.H. Dorafshar, explain the most extensive full face transplant completed to date performed on Richard Lee Norris during a news conference Tuesday, March 27,2012 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

  • A series of photographs of Richard Lee Norris, the recipient of the most extensive full face transplant completed to date are exhibited during a news conference Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton).

Norris was injured in a gun accident in 1997, according to NBC Washington. He lost much of his upper and lower jaws as well as his lips and nose.

The 36-hour surgery required replacing both jaws, teeth, tongue, and skin and underlying nerve and muscle tissue from scalp to neck, the release said.

"People used to stare at me because of my disfigurement," Norris said. "Now they can stare at me in amazement and in the transformation I have taken. I am now able to walk past people and no one even gives me a second look."

Norris is now able to smile and show expression. The motor function on the right side of his face is about 80 percent of normal and motor function on the left side is about 40 percent, according to his doctors. He can smell, taste and eat.

"I have been undergoing physical therapy and also speech therapy," Norris said. "I have been doing very well regaining my speech back. Each day it improves a little more."

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