SENATOBIA, Miss. -- Back in August, Patrick Hardison, 41, a volunteer Senatobia firefighter, was preparing for a surgery that would give him the face belonging to a 26-year-old Brooklyn man.
Hardison's donor was David Rodebaugh. He died in a biking accident on August 12.
"Let's finish the game. We are ready to play. We are going to take good care of you," Hardison said while talking with his surgeons.
In 2001, Hardison entered a burning home on a rescue search, but the roof collapsed on him, and his firefighter's mask burned onto his face. He was left with disfiguring burns across his entire face, neck and upper torso.
Hardison would have to undergo more than 70 surgeries, but a member of his church in Senatobia recalled watching news stories about a transplant performed by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez and contacted him.
Rodriguez, a plastic surgeon at the New York University Langone Medical Center, agreed to perform what would be the most extensive face transplant in history.
"They have done a lot for me. They're working everyday trying to get this transplant done," Hardison said.
Hardison's surgery would take two days. It required 12 hours just to remove his face. He was given a new face, along with a scalp, ears and ear canals.
"We were able to manage it. So, all the obstacles we were not expecting, we handled well and without difficulty," Rodriquez said.
Three months after surgery, Hardison is doing well and has gotten a lot of support from his friends and family in Senatobia.
"How do you think they'll react? Yea, they have their own way. We'll just have to wait and see. They've seen pictures. So we'll see how they do." Hardison said.
Right now Hardison is on the path to a full recovery, and he is returning home for Thanksgiving with a new face but with the same heart that beats in anticipation of seeing his children.
"They're excited to see me. I am excited to see them. I promise," Hardison said.
Since 1985, 28 face transplants have been performed worldwide. The entire procedure, which was paid for by NYU, cost between $850,000 and $1 million.