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Volunteer Firefighter Receives Face Transplant

Team surgeon at work in operatingIn early August, more than 100 doctors, nurses, and medical professionals at the NYU Langone Center completed a 26-hour operation that would help give a man a new face.

The man, Patrick Hardison, was a volunteer firefighter up until 2001, when he suffered severe facial burns while fighting a residential fire.

In 2013 alone, one home fire was reported every 85 seconds. Typically, firefighters are able to control the blaze and exit the premises safely.

Unfortunately, this was not the case for Hardison. Instead, the roof of the burning mobile collapsed, causing his helmet to melt and stick to his face. In the process, Hardison lost most of his facial features, including his hair, eyebrows, eyelids, lips, ears, and nose.

Led by Eduardo Rodriguez, the surgery, which took more than a year of preparation, aimed to give Hardison a brand new face, that included a scalp, ear canals, and portions of bone from the chin, cheeks, and nose.

Before the face transplant, Hardison underwent more than 70 reconstructive surgeries. Rodriguez had performed a face transplant in 2012, and upon hearing this, a fellow firefighter wrote to the doctor.

After hearing Hardison’s case, he was completely on board. They just had to wait for the right donor, a deceased individual who fell within the right weight, height, age, skin, hair color, and bone structure range.

But in August the wait was over. David Rodenbaugh, a 26-year old Brooklyn cyclist, died in a bicycling accident. Rodenbaugh was an organ donor, and after his mother’s consent, it was decided that Hardison would receive Rodenbaugh’s face.

While the surgery cost around $1 million to perform, the NYU Langone Medical Center met the cost entirely, which included surgery preparation, surgery, and rehabilitation.

While the surgery could indeed change the course of Hardison’s life, Dr. Rodriguez gave the firefighter a 50-50 chance of success.

“This is not an operation for everyone, it’s for very courageous individuals,” he said in a news conference.

But after a grueling 26-hour surgery, the medical team at NYU Langone proved successful.

It’s been three months since the surgery, and Hardison is making great strides towards recovery. He is beginning to return to his daily routine, and for the first time since the fire, he is able to blink.