Fifteen years ago, volunteer firefighter Patrick Hardison suffered extreme facial burns while responding to a house fire. He lost a large portion of his face, including his eyelids, ears, lips, hair and most of his nose.
Hardison, from Senatobia, Mississippi, spent much of his time hiding his disfigurement from the world.
“After my accident, my life was really hard. I hated life,” Hardison stated, according to CNN.
Hardison’s entire life changed once again when he underwent the most extensive soft tissue face transplant ever. Taking the face of David Rodebaugh, a deceased bike mechanic, Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez and a team of more than 100 other doctors were able to perform the astonishing surgery successfully.
“I’d like to say that I’m the same old Pat, but that would not give enough credit to the amazing journey that I have gone through over the past year,” Hardison said at a news conference Wednesday.
The operation took 12 hours and required removing Rodebaugh’s donated face and transplanting it to Hardison. With the surgery, Hardison received a new face, scalp, ears, ear canals, selected portions of bone from the chin, cheeks and entire nose and new eyelids.
“One of the most remarkable aspects of this transplant was vision,” Rodriguez stated during a news conference on Wednesday, noting that this surgery was the first time eyelids were transplanted.
Since the initial surgery, Hardison has had four follow-up procedures.
The team of surgeons gave the volunteer firefighter his life back. Hardison can now safely drive his children to school, go swimming, brush his hair and walk around proudly without being pointed and judged.
“I’m here today because I want others to see that there is hope beyond the injury. I’m especially proud to share my story with other injured firefighters, first responders and US military,” Hardison expressed. “If sharing my story helps just one person explore the possibility of face transplants, then it’s worth it. … I have hope now, and I want to help those that are injured know that there is hope for them, too.”
“God put us on the planet to live life to the fullest. That’s what I plan to do.”