Recipient of most extensive face transplant "thriving"

Patrick Hardison, 42, who underwent the most extensive face transplant ever performed, is thriving one year after the historic surgery.

Hardison, a married father of five and former volunteer firefighter from Mississippi, was severely burned and disfigured while in the line of duty in 2001. He had been given only a 50-50 percent chance of survival after the 26-hour surgery.

He spoke during a news conference at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan on Wednesday about his remarkable recovery.

"The surgery has truly given me back my life," said Hardison. "I go about my day just like everyone else. It's allowed me to do things with my family that I had not been able to do. I can't tell you what a sense of freedom it is to even drive my kids to school. We recently went on a family vacation to Disney World, and I swam in the pool with them - something I hadn't done in 15 years."

Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDS, was the lead surgeon of a team of 100 doctors, nurses and medical aides. He said the absence of a rejection episode one year later proves soft tissue clinical face transplants can be successful moving forward.

"We are amazed at Pat's recovery, which has surpassed all of our expectations," said Rodriguez. "Most significant is the lack of a rejection episode. We believe this has much to do with the methodical approach we took in the matching process to ensure that Patrick's donor provided the most favorable match. Doing so also has allowed us to reduce the levels of certain medications that Pat takes to prevent rejection."