Patrick Hardison sustained severe injuries while attempting to rescue a woman he believed was trapped in a house fire. He suffered third-degree burns all over his face and scalp, and had to cover his disfigurement with a baseball cap, sunglasses, and prosthetic ears for years.
Patrick recounted how children would run away upon seeing him. But in 2015, his life changed when he underwent the most extensive face transplant ever performed. Despite the 50/50 odds of survival, the 26-hour surgery involved over 100 people in two teams and proved successful.
Today, Patrick is living a fulfilling life with his beloved wife and children. Here’s everything you need to know about his remarkable story, including what he looks like now.
Patrick Hardison – face transplant
Since the first face transplant in 2005 on Isabelle Dinoire, experts now possess the knowledge to perform total face transplants for those in need. In 2015, Patrick Hardison, a volunteer firefighter from the US, underwent a groundbreaking face transplant surgery.
Despite his injuries, Patrick was a devoted father who loved attending his children’s sporting events and spending quality time with his family. He was always willing to help his community in any way possible.
However, everything changed one fateful day in 2001 when Patrick suffered severe facial burns, including the loss of his ears, lips, most of his eyelid tissue, and nose while responding to a house fire.
For years, Patrick had to face a life of people recoiling from him and parents whispering and pointing at him. But in 2015, the most extensive face transplant in history gave him a new lease on life.
Although there was a 50/50 chance of survival during the complex procedure, Patrick’s life was transformed when he received an entirely new face, leaving him looking incredible. Discover more about the awe-inspiring journey of Patrick Hardison here.
Disfiguring injuries in a house fire
While inside a burning home, Hardison experienced a collapse of the structure, causing him to be trapped. His mask was melting, and his hose had already melted. Though he managed to escape through a window, he suffered severe burns on his head and upper body. A friend and first responder who saw him after the accident described his injuries as the worst he had ever seen in someone who survived. Hardison had third-degree burns on his face, scalp, head, neck, and upper torso. His ears, lips, most of his nose, and even most of his eyelid tissue were also lost in the fire.
After undergoing 71 surgeries and other procedures, Hardison’s face was disfigured, and he struggled to form normal facial expressions. He experienced pain when eating or laughing, and he couldn’t blink or close his eyes. Although surgeons managed to save his vision by reconstructing flaps of skin, he remained at risk of going blind.
Over time, Hardison had difficulty coming to terms with his appearance, and being in public or with his children became a nightmare due to people staring and children being frightened. He didn’t see his own reflection until several months after the accident, and when he did, he found it difficult to accept his new appearance.
Lost hope of living an ordinary life
Patrick concealed his disfigurement by always wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, and specially designed prosthetics that replaced his ears. Despite his efforts, he couldn’t avoid the pain and staring from people when he went out in public, making it difficult for him to live an ordinary life. He even had to prepare himself for the reactions of children who would run away screaming when they saw him at the ball field.
For years, Patrick struggled with his appearance and lost hope of ever finding a solution. However, as medical technology advanced, surgeons developed new methods for face transplants. In 2005, Isabelle Dinoire became the first person to undergo a face transplant. Although Patrick had given up hope of receiving such treatment, a friend introduced him to Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, a surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center who had experience performing face transplants.
After a year of searching, only two potential donors were found, and the first one was a good match but had an incompatible tissue profile.
Patrick Hardison – face donor David Rodebaugh
The second potential donor showed great promise, but unfortunately, the man’s family withdrew him from consideration, leaving Patrick with little hope of ever receiving a face transplant. However, LiveOnNY, a nonprofit organization that coordinates organ donations in the New York area, unexpectedly found a match. The face belonged to David Rodebaugh, a 26-year-old who had been declared brain dead after a serious bike accident.
David’s mother, Nancy Millar, decided to donate her son’s organs, including his face, without hesitation. She saw a chance for David to live on through Patrick.
Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez and his team of over 100 medical professionals began to prepare for Patrick’s surgery. The procedure would be the most extensive soft tissue face transplant ever performed, lasting a staggering 26 hours.
50/50 chance of surviving the surgery
Hardison underwent a highly complex surgical procedure, which involved receiving a new face, scalp, ears, ear canals, and portions of bone from his chin, cheeks, and entire nose. Additionally, new eyelids were also transplanted to restore his ability to blink naturally. However, the surgery came with a 50/50 chance of survival due to its risky nature.
Despite the potential dangers, Hardison believed that everything in life has a risk and that one’s time to go could come at any moment, whether on an operating table or while walking down the street. Before the surgery, he met with his family, including his eldest daughter Alison, who was initially hesitant about the procedure. However, when Patrick explained that it would allow him to look normal and walk her down the aisle without a ball cap or sunglasses, she supported his decision.
Thankfully, the surgery was a success, but it was just the beginning of a long journey for Patrick. In the first week following the operation, he experienced late night scares related to fluctuations in blood pressure and an unstable airway. Furthermore, he had to relearn how to speak and swallow due to the new face, and he suffered from anxiety and bouts of frustration. His face was also extremely swollen, preventing him from closing his mouth.
“They have given me a new life”
Despite the challenges he faced during his recovery, Patrick’s face transplant surgery was truly life-changing. Not only was he able to see his family again, but he also had the opportunity to meet David Rodebaugh’s mother, Nancy Millar, and fulfill her request to kiss his forehead.
Patrick and Nancy connected instantly, and he expressed his deep gratitude towards her for making the surgery possible. He acknowledges that without her and her son’s donation, he would not have been able to receive a new face.
Although his life has changed significantly since the surgery, including his divorce from his wife Chrissi, Patrick’s face has healed well, and the swelling has gone down. He continues to take anti-rejection medication to prevent his immune system from attacking the transplanted tissue.
Despite the challenges, Patrick remains deeply grateful to his donor and their family for their generosity and to Dr. Rodriguez and his team for giving him a new life beyond the face transplant.
Patrick Hardison today – pictures
Today, a father of five is using his journey and recovery as a means to inspire others with the message that it’s never too late to give up. Patrick represents hope and has a strong desire to assist those who are struggling with debilitating injuries.
In 2021, Hardison shared with Fox that he has purchased his own place and is currently working on building a house. Additionally, he is in the process of writing a book with the aim of showing the world that hope is possible. He hopes to encourage people who may be in a situation similar to his former self to believe that they do not have to live that way forever and that they can accomplish anything.
The recovery of Patrick Hardison is nothing short of a miracle, and we are incredibly inspired by the hard work and dedication of Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez and his team. They are the true heroes.
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