There was only a 50% chance the face transplant that could transform his life would work—and it was a gamble Mississippi's Pat Hardison won. Per USA Today, the ex-Senatobia firefighter received the "world's most extensive face transplant" in August 2015, after he'd been severely burned 14 years earlier while fighting a house fire. A team of more than 100 medical staff took part in the groundbreaking surgery, which took more than 24 hours, in which Hardison received the face of 26-year-old David Rodebaugh, who'd died in a cycling accident. Though he'd faced a good chance of dying from the procedure, Hardison's decision to "bet it all" paid off. On Sunday, the 43-year-old took a turn as guest speaker for an organ transplant group to express his gratitude.
The transplant "gave me life," Hardison said in his speech for the Mid-South Transplant Foundation's "Celebration of Life" event. He noted he's able to go places now with his kids (they hit Disney World in 2016) and that people usually have no idea from looking at him that he's had a face transplant. "It's the first time my two little boys had been anywhere where people didn't say, 'What happened?' … They could tell something had happened, but nobody ever looked at me and said, 'He got a face transplant.' Another momentous occasion last November: Hardison met Rodebaugh's mom. After studying "every angle" of Hardison's new face, per ABC News—even finding an old chicken pox scar she remembered her son had had on his forehead—Nancy Millar told Hardison, "I am as proud of you as I was of my own son. It's not David's face, it's your face." (Read more face transplant stories.)