World’s third full face transplant patient says operation ‘best decision’ of his life

‘It has helped me put the accident behind me and finally move on with my life,’ he said

Related video: Firefighter speaks out after historic face transplant

The third person to undergo a full face transplant operation has called it the "best decision I ever made”.

The story of Mitch Hunter and the events that led to his surgery and recovery began 20 years ago, when a car he was in crashed into a 10,000 volt electrical pylon. His friend and his friend's girlfriend were in the car with him when the driver lost control of the vehicle and and it slammed into the electrical post.

Mr Hunter reportedly shoved a female passenger traveling with him out of harm's way, but ended up trapped in the car as electricity surged through his body for a period of five minutes.

The accident left him disfigured. He spent two months recovering in the hospital, received 67 facial reconstructive surgeries, 20 skin grafts, and had to have part of his right leg amputated as it had been severely burned.

Ten years later, he became the third person in the world to undergo a face transplant surgery. His face was replaced with one from a man who had recently died.

Mr Hunter said he opted for the surgery because he did not want his three children to be bullied at school due to his disfigurement. He does not regret the decision.

Mitch Hunter, the third person in the world to receive a full face transplant, shortly after his initial operation in 2011, left, and March 2022, right. Mr Hunter suffered severe electrical burns to his face after a car he was in smashed into a 10,000 volt electrical pylon.

"Having the transplant was the best decision of my life, and it has helped me put the accident behind me and finally move on with my life," Mr Hunter said.

Mr Hunter said he remembers little from the actual accident. He said he recalled pushing the girl away from the electric pole, and then waking up a month later in a hospital.

"I knew my injuries were serious when my mom and step mom were in the room consoling one another because they usually hated each other," he said.

He recalled that no one would show him a mirror in the days after he woke up. Eventually an ex-girlfriend visited him and had a mirror on her person. She allowed him to borrow it and he saw himself for the first time since the accident.

"I can't describe the feeling I had when seeing myself like that, it didn't feel real – I was unrecognisable," he said.

Thankfully, the woman he helped, his friend's girlfriend, only suffered minor burns to her foot. His injuries were far more severe, covering every inch of his face and burning his right leg severely, forcing the amputation.

After his initial recovery, Mr Hunter said he and his girlfriend were determined to get on with their lives. However, Mr Hunter's girlfriend became pregnant, and he feared his child might be scared by his face. He began to seek out more advanced treatments for his face.

"Having people scream at the sight of you is upsetting, and I couldn't imagine that happening in the company of my own children," he said.

Following the transplant, Mr Hunter had to wait for five months for the initial swelling to ease before his face began to take its permanent shape. Not only has his face fully settled in, but he can now grow a beard – something he couldn't do before – thanks to the donor previously having a beard.

Mr Hunter must take medicine for the rest of his life as a result of the transplant, but he is comfortable in his literally new skin, and has gone on to become a father of three.

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