Firefighter Had Groundbreaking Face Transplant After Suffering Bad Burns (Video)

A volunteer firefighter received the most extensive facial transplant ever performed.

In September of 2001, Patrick Hardison of Senatobia, Mississippi went into a burning home to search for a woman who was trapped inside. The ceiling collapsed, releasing enough fire to melt Hardison's mask and hose, according to ABC News.

He sustained third-degree burns to his head, neck and torso, leaving the father of five unrecognizable.

Hardison told ABC's "Nightline,"

My kids were scared to death of me. You can't blame them.

Hardison underwent 71 surgeries over a decade yielding no significant improvements; he was on track to losing his sight and was addicted to pain medication.

A friend from church eventually contacted world-renowned reconstructive surgeon Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez.

Hardison was placed on a donor list in August of 2014, Yahoo! News reports, but it wasn't until July of this year a perfect match was found in David Rodebaugh, who previously registered as an organ donor.

The 26-year-old former competitive bicyclist and bike mechanic died of injuries he suffered in a biking accident in Brooklyn.

There was a 50 percent chance Hardison, now 41, would not survive the facial transplant, first performed with success in 2005.

Hardison said,

I thought about the risk of dying because that never scares me because I lived. There are things in life that are way worse than death.

The procedure was conducted at NYU Langone Medical Center on August 14 and took approximately 26 hours.

Dr. Rodriguez successfully fused together tissue, nerves, muscle and blood vessels to give Hardison an entirely new face and scalp, complete with new ears and eyelid muscles. Hardison's skull was also fitted with bone segments to maintain his new face's stability.

Addressing the amount of tissue used, Dr. Rodriguez called the facial transplant the most extensive to date. He estimates the surgery to have cost $1 million, all of which was paid for by the hospital.

Hardison is still in pain and recovering at NYU Langone, but in a few months, the swelling will diminish, and he'll regain normal vision.

Soon, Dr. Rodriguez said, "a casual observer will not notice anything that is odd" in his new face.

Hardison added,

I went to Macy's to get clothes and I was just another guy, nobody is pointing or staring. I wasn't scaring any kids.

He is now considering becoming a motivational speaker to show other victims "there is hope."

Driving, Hardison said, is perhaps the activity he is most excited to be able to do again.

Citations: Face Transplant Surgery Gives 41-Year-Old Former Firefighter a New 26-Year-Old Face (ABC News), Transplant gives new face, scalp to burned firefighter (Yahoo! News)