Mitch Hunter was just 21 when a car he was in smashed into a 10,000-volt electrical pylon 15 years ago. He pushed the female driver next to him out of harm's way. As he did, a near-lethal force of electricity surged up his foot, through his body, and out of his face. Within five minutes the former soldier was unrecognizable. Despite undergoing 20 corrective operations - grafting skin from his legs, arms and back - children would still scream at the sight of him in the street. In a desperate bid to regain some normalcy in his life, Indiana-based Hunter submitted himself to become one of the first people in the world to receive a face transplant in 2011.
Five years later after his surgery, now 35, married, with a child of his own, he has spoken out to describe his incredible recovery, insisting he has never felt better. "I feel just as healthy as I did when I was 21, and I feel great. I look back on it as something that made me stronger. I mean, yeah, I'd like to have my leg and my face back, but without that happening I wouldn't be who I am today."
Hunter's friend had been driving him and his girlfriend along a North Carolina highway when she lost control of the wheel and plowed into a pylon. The electricity flowed through the base of the car, up through his foot. For five minutes, 10,000 volts pumped through his body, exiting through his hand and face. Most of it went to his face.
But Hunter has no recollection of those traumatic 300 seconds. "People tell me that I'm fortunate that I don't remember [the accident] because it would probably cause a lot of pain. Imagine walking into a room and like falling, and everybody noticing. That's how it was every time I walked in a room because of the way my face looked."
There had only been two successful face transplants in America, and 10 in the world.
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