Patrick Hardison was just a 27-year-old volunteer firefighter responding to a call. A house was on fire in his small Mississippi town and he needed to save a woman trapped inside.
But as he searched for her, the roof collapsed and the blaze burned his entire face, including his lips, eye lids and ears.
Doctors saved his life, but not his face.
When he returned home after spending 63 days in the hospital, he couldn't look in the mirror. He had no desire to see what was left.
That's how Hardison lived for 14 years. And as doctors described it, "living this way is not living."
Most people would have given up after so many years, but Hardison got a second chance when he met Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, an internationally recognized plastic surgeon, who had completed one of the most extensive face transplants to date.
"The type of injury that he had, there was no more that they could do to help," said Rodriguez, now chairman of New York University Langone Medical Center's plastic surgery department.
Rodriguez saw something in Hardison. He told NBC News he saw courage, commitment and responsibility, all the traits that make a perfect candidate for a face transplant. But the road wouldn't be easy. He would have to undergo lots of testing to make sure he was ready physically and psychologically.
Even if he passed the testing and found a donor, the surgery would be so co...