This firefighter lost his face and fought to save a woman. You won’t believe what he looks like today. How much knowledge about the human body do doctors, nurses, surgeons, and all others in the field of medicine have? They are true heroes doing everything they can to help people get better. Moreover, it’s mind-blowing what can be done to save a life these days.
Take, for example, surgeons who can replace a heart or a kidney. With the knowledge experts have today, it’s even possible to change an entire face for people in need. Face transplants have been performed since 2005 when Isabel de Noir became the first-ever person to receive one. In 2015, another very special face transplant was performed in the U.S when Patrick Hardison became the first American to undergo the procedure.
Like any other loving father, Patrick attended his children’s sporting activities and liked spending time with his family. The volunteer fireman had always endeavored to help his community in any way he could. One day in 2001, though, the lives of him and his family would change forever. Patrick Hardison from Mississippi worked as a volunteer firefighter earlier in his life. In 2001, he responded to a house fire when a horrible accident occurred.
Hardison was inside a burning home when it collapsed on top of him. “My mask was melting to my face,” Hardison said. “My hose was already melted.” He managed to escape through a window, but his head and upper body were already on fire, and Patrick suffered horrific injuries. “For somebody who does what we do for a living, I’ve never seen anybody burn that bad that was still alive,” friend and first responder Jimmy Neal recalled of seeing Hardison after the accident.
The father had third-degree burns on his entire face and scalp. In addition, he sustained facial burns to his head, neck, and upper torso. The fire also claimed his ears, lips, most of his nose, and even most of his eyelid tissue. “I didn’t actually see myself until probably November. I got injured in September,” Hardison told Fox News.
“They had cut a little pinhole in one of my eyelids because they had everything covered skin graft. I looked in the mirror, and all I could do, I said, ‘This is it. I can’t do this.'” A new life awaited Hardison. He underwent 71 surgeries and several other procedures but was still unable to form normal facial expressions.
Patrick couldn’t eat or laugh without feeling pain, and he couldn’t even blink or close his eyes. Surgeons were eventually able to put together flaps of skin to protect his vision. Still, he remained at risk of slowly but surely going blind. The years went by, and Patrick had difficulties accepting his appearance. Just being with his children or by himself, for that matter, became a nightmare.
People pointed at him, and the children were scared. Patrick always wore a baseball cap and sunglasses, as well as specially designed prosthetics that replaced his ears. “I had kids. It was just a tough time. I never got a day off from the injury.
When you walk out in public, it was daunting, you know? There’s no way to explain everything,” he said. “You go to the ball field, you have to prepare yourself for the kid that goes running off screaming.” For years, Patrick battled pain and staring from people when walking down the street. He was losing all hope of living an ordinary life and started to think that his disfigured appearance was one he would be cursed with forever.
But as time went by, surgeons developed new methods for face transplants. Finally, in 2005, Isabel de Noir became the first-ever person to have a face transplant. Hardison, though, had given up hope of getting the help he desperately wanted. Then one day, a friend stumbled across Dr. Eduardo D Rodriguez, who worked at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.
Rodriguez had performed a face transplant before, and so the search began to find Patrick a donor. After a year, Hardison’s search had turned up two potential donors. The first one was a good match, but the tissue profile was not. The second candidate looked very promising, but the man’s family withdrew him from consideration. Hardison was preparing to accept that he might never get a face transplant.
Then, out of the blue, another potential donor came to light. LiveOnNY, a non-profit that coordinates organ donations in the New York area, had found a match. The face belonged to David Rosebaugh, a 26-year-old who’d sustained a massive head injury in a bike accident and had been declared brain dead. After David passed away, his mother, Nancy Miller, decided to donate her son’s organs, including liver, heart, and kidneys. More important, she also decided to donate his face.
“I said, ‘You better save his face. He has the face of a porcelain doll, and he’s a donor.’ We talked about it,” Miller told People. She didn’t hesitate for a second when she heard about Patrick and the possibility of him getting a face transplant. For her, it was a chance for David to live on.
“When I met Patrick, I saw the strength, the strong, manly, burly kind of energy in him that David had,” she recon. “David wanted to be a firefighter, and I knew if this guy was a firefighter, he was willing to walk into a fire to save people and risk his own life. Then he had the strength that David had.” Dr. Eduardo D Rodriguez assembled his team of 100 doctors, nurses, and other medical aides, and together they prepared for Hardison’s surgery.
It was the most extensive soft tissue face transplant ever performed. The surgery took a whopping 26 hours. The medical team gave Hardison a new face, scalp, ears, and ear canals. They selected portions of bone from the chin, cheeks, and the entire nose. Not only that, but Patrick also received new eyelids, returning to him the ability to blink naturally.
But the surgery was not without risk. Due to the nature of the highly complex procedure, Patrick only had a 50/50 chance of surviving. “Everything in life has a risk,” Hardison told Time Magazine. “When it’s your time to go, you’ll go, whether you’re walking down the street and get hit by a car or you’re lying on the operating table.” Prior to the surgery, Patrick met his family for what could have been the last time.
His eldest daughter, Alison, was wondering why her father was so desperate to go through the procedure. “That I won’t have to wear a ball cap, and I won’t have to wear my sunglasses. I look normal whenever I get to walk you down the aisle,” and that right then pretty much sealed the deal for me. Fortunately, the procedure was a big success, though it was only the start of a very long journey for Patrick. During the first week following the operation, he endured late-night scares involving fluctuations in blood pressure and an unstable airway.
The new face also meant that he had to learn how to speak and swallow again, and he suffered from both anxiety and bouts of frustration because of it. He couldn’t even close his mouth because his face was so swollen. Despite all that, the surgery was life-changing. Not only did Patrick experience the joy of seeing his family again, but he also got to meet David Rodenbao’s mother, Nancy Miller. Their first encounter after the surgery was an emotional one, and it turned out Nancy had one request.
“I said, ‘Can I kiss your forehead?'” Miller said. “That’s the one thing I wanted to do because every night before David went to bed when he was little, I kissed his forehead. I’ve been waiting a year to meet her. I’m just very grateful,” Patrick said.
“Without her, it wouldn’t have been possible. It’s like she’s family. We connected that easily.” It’s now been seven years since Patrick underwent his face transplant. Since then, his life has changed plenty.
He and Chrissy divorced a year after the surgery following ten years of marriage. Hardison’s face healed nicely, and the swelling has gone down, though he has to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life to stop his body’s immune system from fighting the inserted transplant. It has given him the chance to live again. “I’m deeply grateful to my donor and his family,” Hardison said in a statement. “Even though I didn’t know who they would be, I prayed for them every day, knowing the difficult decision they’d have to make in order to help me.
I hope they see me in the goodness of their decision. I also want to thank Dr. Rodriguez and his amazing team. They’ve given me more than a new face. They’ve given me a new life.
Today, the father of five wants to use his journey in recovery to spread the message that it’s never too late to give up. Patrick stands for hope, and he desires to help others struggling with debilitating injuries. “I’ve bought my own place, working on getting a houseboat. I’m working on a book,” Hardison told Fox in 2021. “Because I want to show the world that you can have hope.
I wouldn’t want people that were like me years ago to think that’s it. I have to live like this. You don’t. You can accomplish anything.” Patrick Hardison’s recovery is a miracle, and we’re incredibly inspired by surgeon Dr.
Eduardo D Rodriguez and his team. You’re the real heroes. Please share this story with your friends and family to honor the work of the medical staff that helped Patrick get his life back.