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‘I feel normal again

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Firefighter describes life after historic face transplant.

NEW YORK (AFP) – A US firefighter who received a face transplant a year ago said Wednesday that he feels normal again and even managed to swim for the first time in 15 years.

Patrick Hardison, 42, from Senatobia, Mississippi, was horribly disfigured when the roof of a burning home collapsed on top of him in 2001. He underwent the complex surgery in New York in August 2015, when doctors told him that he faced only a 50:50 chance of success.

“My family and I took a trip to Disney World this past June and I swam in the pool with them. That’s something I had not done in 15 years!” he told a news conference to mark the anniversary.

His new eyelids and ability to blink mean that his sight has improved and he can “once again drive a car” and sleep more soundly.

“No more stares from strangers. I’m pretty much back to being a normal guy, doing normal activities,” Hardison said.

He thanked his medical team and his family, saying that he wanted to encourage other people to explore the possibility of getting a face transplant.

More than 100 doctors, nurses and medical support staff took part in the 26-hour transplant last August at the NYU Langone Medical Center.

The surgery is estimated to cost about $1 million, according to NYU, but the hospital covered the cost. Rodriguez was recently awarded $2.5 million from the Defense Department to continue face transplant research.

His donor was David Rodebaugh, a 26-year-old award-winning BMX cyclist from Brooklyn, who died in a road accident.

His mother agreed to organ donation. He is scheduled to meet Rodebaugh’s family in the fall, the hospital said.

Hardison has had several follow-up procedures over the last year, mainly to adjust his eyelids and lips, and to remove feeding and breathing tubes.

Hardison will remain on immune suppressants for the rest of his life and still undergoes monthly check-ups in New York. (With reports from AP)