Joe DiMeo tends to “roll with the punches.” The 22-year-old always looks for the positives, even when coping with extreme adversities, like a July 2018 car accident that left him with burns on 80 percent of his body.
The New Jersey native had been driving home after a late shift at work when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his car, which flipped and caught on fire. He was pulled halfway out of his car by a good Samaritan—who happened to be R&B singer Ted Wizard Mills, lead singer of Blue Magic—and woke up in the hospital nearly 3 months later and after around 20 reconstructive surgeries.
DiMeo survived, but with significant losses: doctors had to amputate his fingers due to the severe burns, he had no lips, and his eyelids were completely fused. “They did what they could at the best of their ability for me,” DiMeo tells People.
Still, DiMeo always looked for the positives. Before he left the hospital, one of the plastic surgeons who worked with him had taken a video and sent it to Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDS, a world-renowned expert in reconstructive plastic surgery at NYU Langone Health in New York City. In March 2019, DiMeo spoke with Dr. Rodriguez, who brought up the possibility of a face and double hand transplant.
“I liked his attitude—he’s a really down-to-earth guy,” DiMeo says of Dr. Rodriguez. “When I finished talking to him that day, I was like, ‘I’ve got to do this.’”
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