Volunteer firefighter undergoes surgery, gets completely new face

Man says now he's "just a regular guy"

As he searched, the roof collapsed, leaving him with third-degree burns on his head, neck and upper body.

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The resulting injuries kept him in the hospital for months and left him with an unrecognizable face.

"I was almost totally blind," he told Fox News. "I could see just a little bit."

Hardison was almost ready to give up hope when he discovered face transplants. Less than 30 such procedures have taken place worldwide, but New York University’s Langone Medical Center was willing to help.

Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez called Hardison’s face, "one huge scar" before the 26-hour surgery.

The result is amazing.

Hardison has a face again, and his vision is coming back. He’s also close to one of his biggest goals: "I'll start driving again," he told Fox.

But Hardison’s new face wasn’t completely created by doctors; it came from someone else.

“We were looking for the ideal donor," Rodriguez explained, referring to a person whose biological signature would match closely with Hardison to reduce the chance of rejection.

That donor turned out to be 26-year-old New York artist David Rodebaugh, who died after a bike accident in Brooklyn.

Hardison and Rodriguez admit the new face needs time to settle into place and for the swelling to reduce. When that happens, Rodriguez says, "A casual observer will not notice anything that is odd."

Hardison admits some people still stare from time to time but loves “how there is hope."

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