A former soldier got a new lease on life a decade after a horrific car accident in 2001.
Mitch Hunter, 42, underwent life-changing full-face transplant surgery — only the second person in the US to receive it — 10 years later, which transformed his physical appearance.
And he has now declared that the surgery was “the best decision I ever made.”
The Indianapolis native was on the surgical table for 14 hours as 30 doctors lent their time and skill to fix his mug, according to South West News Service.
The surgery took place 10 years after the accident, in which a car he was in crashed into a 10,000-volt electrical pylon on a North Carolina highway.
He shoved an injured female passenger out of the way to save her, but electrical currents then pulsed through his body — mainly his face — for about five minutes, according to SWNS.
Following the crash, Hunter spent two months in a hospital and endured 67 facial reconstructive surgeries. A portion of his right leg was amputated due to his burns, and he also needed 20 skin grafts from his leg to fix the skin on his face and neck.
“I couldn’t believe how drastically my life had changed in what was a matter of minutes,” he said.
The father of three later received the face transplant from a deceased organ donor that used the skin, soft tissue and cartilage from his nose, beard and eyebrows to transform Hunter’s new face.
The ex-soldier now has a beard and has regained full feeling in his face. After five months of swelling, his façade became fully formed.
“Strangely enough I can grow my beard which once belonged to the donor — which is really weird,” Hunter said.
His decision to get the transplant came about because he didn’t want his children to be bullied and be labeled as “outcasts” due to his disfigurement.
“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.
He recalled the aftermath of his accident, noting that his family and friends were afraid of showing him his reflection in a mirror.
“For a few days no one would show me a mirror until my ex-girlfriend at the time came to visit and brought one with her,” he said. “I can’t describe the feeling I had when seeing myself like that, it didn’t feel real. I was unrecognizable.”
He also had no memory of what had transpired when he woke up a long 27 days after the tragedy.
“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,” he told SWNS.