An ex- volunteer firefighter has undergone the "most extensive" facial transplant ever completed in New York. Patrick Hardison, 41, was severely burned in 2001 battling a blaze in a mobile home that he and his colleagues believed had a woman trapped inside – she had in fact gone fishing.

Patrick, from Sanatoria, Mississippi had undergone 70 surgeries to recreate his face, but in August expert doctor Eduardo Rodriguez performed a complicated face transplant over 26 hours at the NYU Langone Medical Centre. Patrick now has the face of David Rodebaugh, a 26-year-old bike mechanic from New York, who died after being declared brain dead after a cycling accident this summer.

The ground breaking surgery has given him a new face, scalp, ears, ear canals. The procedure was only given a 50/50 chance of success by Dr Rodriguez and, if it was to fail, Patrick would have had to pay the highest price.

"You have to understand: If it were to fail, there is no bailout option," Dr Rodriguez told New York magazine. "You would likely die. This is a procedure that is all or none."

Of the 30 people who have had similar face transplants, up to five have died after their body rejected the new skin. Three months later doctors say Patrick's recovery is going to plan and although he is still in a lot of pain this is a marked improvement from his former life.

Transplant success
Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez displays an image from the successful completion of the most extensive face transplant to date at NYU Langone Medical CenterGetty Images

"Kids ran screaming and crying when they saw me. There are things worse than dying," he said. "I thought for years that I would die the way I was after I got injured. I never thought I would be sitting here today after a face transplant.

"I thought for years that I would die the way I was after I got injured. I never thought I would be sitting here today after a face transplant."

Dr Rodriguez first met Patrick back in 2012 saying that he wanted to "make him normal". The esteemed surgeon thought they had found two donors before the procedure in August but neither were suitable.

Patrick will also have to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of his life, he is currently undergoing extensive physical therapy under the careful of eye of experienced doctors but hopes to return home by the end of the year. "I used to get stared at all the time, but now I'm just an average guy," added Patrick.