One year after receiving one of the most detailed face transplants ever, Mississippi firefighter Pat Hardison is speaking out for the first time.
To celebrate the anniversary of his surgery, Hardison spoke at NYU’s Langone Medical Center in Manhattan with his family by his side.
"There are no more stares, no more frightened children running away from me. I'm pretty much just a normal guy,” he said Wednesday. “Now, I want to help others to pursue this type of surgery, especially fellow firefighters and members of the armed services. There definitely is hope."
He told Inside Edition after the press conference: "I was alive before but I wasn’t living before the transplant. Before the transplant I would go down the street and I had so much disfigurement that people would just look and stare. Most of them meant nothing by it, they were just curious at what had happened."
In 2001, he was battling a house fire when the walls collapsed on him. The then-27-year-old survived but his face was fully burned.
Last year, he received a transplant, which reportedly cost $1 million at the NYU Langone Medical Center.
The donor was David Rodebaugh, who lost his life in 2015 in a bike accident in Brooklyn. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
Rodebaugh's girlfriend, Saskia Thode wrote on her Facebook page: “Incredible. Medical miracle workers" after seeing her boyfriend's face on Hardison.
David’s father, Gregory told Inside Edition: “I am very appreciative and thankful that other people were able to benefit of an unfortunate thing.”
The 26-hour surgery was risky and there was a 50/50 chance of survival. A team of 100 doctors performed the operation.
Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDS, the chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone, said: “We are amazed at Pat's recovery, which has surpassed all of our expectations."
He added that the surgery is a "game changer."
"I can't tell you what a sense of freedom it is to even drive my kids to school," Hardison added to the room full of reporters.
His daughter, Alison, told Inside Edition: "This past year has been a complete whirlwind for my family. You go from not living a normal life when your dad is sheltered and closed off to the word to where now he is out and about."