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He swims for the first time in 15 years

Disfigured firefighter back to doing 'normal activities' after face transplant

US firefighter Patrick Hardison, who received a face transplant a year ago, said on Wednesday that he felt normal again and even managed to swim for the first time in 15 years.

The 42-year-old from Mississippi was horribly disfigured when the roof of a burning home collapsed on him in 2001.

He went through the complex surgery in New York in August last year, when doctors told him he had 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," AFP reported him as saying.

Mr Hardison's new eyelids and the 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," he said.

ENCOURAGING OTHERS

Mr Hardison added 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 in New York City.

Mr Hardison's 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.

Mr 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.

Dr Eduardo Rodriquez, who led the surgery, said he was amazed by his patient's recovery and that it had "surpassed all of our expectations".

Mr Hardison will remain on immune suppressants for the rest of his life and still has monthly check-ups in New York.

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