your connection to The Boston Globe

Burn victim has inner strength

Mike Paganelli was in a fiery crash on the night that the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. Mike Paganelli was in a fiery crash on the night that the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)

Mike Paganelli watched the final game of the 2004 World Series at a friend's house in New Hampshire, then headed home to Massachusetts in the seventh inning. He lost control of his truck on Interstate 93, crashing into a guardrail and a tree at high speed. His truck burst into flames, a fire so intense that it burned 45 percent of his upper body, including his face. Paganelli spent six months at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and has had 33 operations to reconstruct his face. He does not qualify for the Brigham transplant program run by Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, his plastic surgeon, and said he would have doubts about having a face transplant.

"You're in the hospital, something traumatic like this happens to you, and you wake up, and you never really see your face, because you haven't had a mirror yet to see your face."

"Dr. Pomahac came in one day and he goes, 'Mike, have you seen your face in the mirror yet?' . . . I went and I looked in a mirror. And I kind of went 'whoa.' And I looked, and I looked. And then, I just overcame that. Because everything is in your heart, it's inside you still. . . . I felt and I still do, I feel like me, who I was, who I am."

"I read about the things that happen long term [when transplant patients are on anti-rejection medication], the drugs that you need to take. The breakdown of your organs with those drugs. Something that would probably be the worst thing would be to have it not come out [and] being more deformed than you really are now."

"I would definitely probably lean toward just staying the way I am. Because at this point for me, I am on no medication whatsoever, nothing. . . . I work, I work like a dog. And I enjoy life, I have fun. And people accept me for who I am, and that's good enough for me."

Pop-up GLOBE GRAPHIC: Partial face transplant
 RELATED STORY: Burn victim has inner strength
Burn victim Mike Paganelli talks to Globe reporter Liz Kowalczyk about seeing his face for the first time after suffering severe burns.

Paganelli talks to Kowalczyk about whether he'd consider getting a facial transplant.