Firefighter Patrick Hardison Feels 'Normal' A Year After Face Transplant

An American firefighter given a face transplant one year ago has described how he now feels like "a normal guy".

Patrick Hardison, 42, from Senatobia, Mississippi, was badly injured when he ran into a burning house to rescue a woman in 2001.

His face was burned beyond recognition when the roof of the house collapsed on top of him.

In August 2015 Mr Hardison received a historic operation which saw his burned face peeled off and replaced with that of 26-year-old New York cyclist David Rodebaugh.

Speaking at a news conference to mark the first anniversary of the 26-hour operation, Mr Hardison said: "I'm here today because I want others to see that there is hope beyond the injury.

"I'm especially proud to share my story with other injured firefighters, first responders and US military.

"If sharing my story helps just one person explore the possibility of face transplants, then it's worth it."

Mr Hardison, surrounded by his wife and children, went on: "I guess you all want to know how I am doing. Well, I'm happy to tell you I'm doing great.

"I like to say that I'm the same old Pat, but that would not give enough credit to the amazing journey that I have gone through over the past year.

"The road to recovery has been long and hard, but if I had the opportunity to do it again, I would in a heartbeat."

He said how he can now enjoy activities with his family again.

"My family and I took a trip to Disney World this past June and I swam in the pool with my children for the first time in 15 years," he said.

He told how his new eyelids and ability to blink meant his sight had improved and he could drive a car once more. He said he was sleeping more soundly as well.

"It's just great," he said.

"No more stares from strangers. I'm pretty much back to being a normal guy, doing normal activities.

"My life has changed and it has been renewed."

He thanked his medical team of more than 100 doctors, nurses and support staff who were involved in the transplant at the NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York City and where he has had several follow-up procedures.

He continues to have monthly check-ups and will remain on immune suppressants for the rest of his life.

Surgeon Dr Eduardo Rodriquez, who was in charge of the procedure, said he was amazed by his patient's recovery and that it had "surpassed all of our expectations".

Mr Rodebaugh was identified as a potential donor after he died when he hit his head during a bicycle collision with a pedestrian.

His mother gave permission for his face to be donated to Mr Hardiman, noting her son always wanted to be a firefighter.

Mr Hardison is going to meet Mr Rodebaugh's family later this year.

The first partial face transplant was carried out by doctors in France in 2005 to restore the face of a woman who had been mauled by her dog.