A former US firefighter almost lost his face and life in a fire tragedy. But with the help of US surgeons, he was given a new face.

According to The Washington Post, Patrick Hardison, 41, underwent “the world’s most extensive face transplant” on August 14. The cost of the face transplant was estimated between $850,000 and $1 million.

His donor was a BMX cyclist named David Rodebaugh who died in a cycling accident last July. His family donated some of his body organs to help other patients. When his mother was asked about the face transplant, she did not hesitate. She called her son as “a free spirit who loved life.”

Plastic surgeon Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez led a team of more than 100 doctors in the 26-hour surgery to give Hardison a new face. Unlike previous transplants where parts are stitched onto the person’s face, the surgery involved a “comprehensive graft of both the front and back of the head.”

During the surgery, the doctors noticed that Hardison’s new lips and ears “were robust with color” which meant that there was blood circulating. They were also able to replace Hardison’s eyelids and the muscles which help the eye blink.

As reported on the site, Patrick Hardison was a volunteer firefighter. During his duty at work, a house was reported to be on fire where a woman was trapped. On the scene, his helmet was “knocked off” and his mask melted. Thus, he almost lost his face and suffered from third-degree burns.

“From that day on, Sept. 5, 2001, there was no normal tissue left throughout his face,” Dr. Rodriguez said.

Hardison underwent over 70 surgeries but none was successful enough. He resorted to wearing sunglasses and baseball caps whenever he went outside. His friend heard about the previous operations of Dr. Rodriguez so he introduced Hardison to the surgeon.

During the face transplant in August, BBC reported that surgeons believed it has a 50:50 chance to work. But after three months, Dr. Rodriguez said that his patient is in good condition.

“The amount of tissue transplanted in Patrick has not been done before. He is doing very well today for only day 93 [post-op],” the surgeon mentioned.

Hardison was thankful to the team of doctors and his donor.

“They have given me more than a new face. They have given me a new life,” he said.