Firefighter speaks out about historic face transplant: ‘There’s hope for everyone out there’

·2 min read
Patrick Hardison, 42, underwent the most extensive face transplant surgery to date in 2016.  (Fox News)
Patrick Hardison, 42, underwent the most extensive face transplant surgery to date in 2016. (Fox News)

Patrick Hardison, 42, underwent the most extensive face transplant surgery to date in 2015 – more than a decade after his face was burned off while he was working as a volunteer firefighter.

“I didn’t actually see myself until probably November. I got injured in September,” Mr Hardison told Fox News in a segment broadcast on Monday night.

“They had cut a little pinhole in one of my eyelids because they had everything covered, skin graft. I looked in the mirror and ... I said, ‘this is it? I can’t do this,’” he told the network.

The facial burns he sustained in a house fire in 2001 did substantial damage to his head, neck, and upper body. Part of the house roof collapsed above him and his facemask melted onto his skin. He lost his ears, lips, most of his nose, and most of his eyelid tissue.

Mr Hardison, who lives in Mississippi, underwent 71 surgeries and struggled with his new appearance.

“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 daily... 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.”

Dr Eduardo Rodriguez at NYU Langone Medical Center put together a team of over 100 doctors, nurses and other aides to make the most extensive soft issue face transplant possible. The surgery lasted 26 hours and Mr Hardison was given a 50-50 chance of survival.

He received a new face, scalp, nose, ears and ear canals. Bone portions were added to his chin and cheeks. With his new eyelids, he was once again able to blink on his own.

Five years after the surgery, Mr Hardison wants to encourage others with similar problems.

“I’ve bought my own place, working on getting a house built. I’m working on a book,” he told Fox News.

“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,” he added.

“I want to help – 22 veterans a day commit suicide. 97 per cent of the people that have facial injuries as significant as mine commit suicide and I understand that, but they also don’t have hope.

“They’re thinking... ‘I have to live like this,’ but you don’t. There’s hope for everyone out there,” Mr Hardison said.

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