A U.S. firefighter who had sustained severe burns has recently received the most extensive face transplant ever recorded.
41-year old Patrick Hardison had been disfigured following a rescue operation that he carried out in 2001, back when he was still working as a volunteer firefighter in Senatobia, Mississippi.
On that fateful day, he was trying to save a woman trapped in a burning house, but a roof engulfed in flames tumbled down on him, destroying his mask and injuring his face horrendously.
He barely escaped from that inferno after jumping out of the window, but was left covered in third-degree burns, across his face, neck, ears and upper torso.
Although following the incident he was subjected to 70 surgeries at a burn center in Memphis, where leg skin was grafted on his face, there was still “no semblance of normal anatomy”.
He couldn’t close his eyes properly, experienced debilitating pain while trying to eat or talk, and was so ashamed with his appearance that he would always wear a baseball cap and sunglasses, in order to prevent others from seeing his wounds.
Now, however, he is hoping to turn over a new leaf, after an extensive face surgery which took place in August, at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. The procedure lasted 26 hours, and was assisted by a staggering number of 150 health staff members.
Hardison was transplanted a full scalp and face, which had been donated by the family of David Rodebaugh, a 26-year old artist and BMX cyclist who had been pronounced brain-dead in July, following a bike accident.
The patient now has the donor’s main facial features, including his upper and lower eyelids, lips, nose and ears. He is finally able to sleep with his eyes closed, and blink without issues, so this makes doctors hopeful that his blue eyes won’t be affected by blindness in the future, as it had been feared before.
According to Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the plastic surgeon who led the incredibly difficult operation, medical personnel had been practicing for a full year in order to ensure that there would be no errors putting the patient’s life in danger, and that every tissue would be perfectly positioned.
The surgery cost between $850,000 and $1 million, but representatives of New York University have announced they would be covering this sum, in order to express their gratitude for the firefighter’s selflessness and bravery.
They had initially been informed about Hardison’s suffering after a friend of his contacted them, and explained the horrific incident. That is how they also found out that the man’s 5 children were still having trouble looking at their father’s face, because the disfigurement had been so terrible.
Now, the patient, who is expected to be discharged from hospital by Thanksgiving, can hopefully resume his life, without fearing that others might judge or mock him for his looks.
He remains profoundly indebted to his donor’s family, whose decision to support him has been an unexpected gift, which came when he had lost all hope.
Image Source: TEOTI