A volunteer firefighter from Mississippi who suffered extensive facial burns now has a new face. Patrick Hardison underwent the facial transplant in August, which also restored his eyelids, eyebrows, ears and hair.
Surgeons spent 26 hours completing the operation, working in two teams – one preparing the donor and the other the recipient. The operation seemed to be impossible, but the surgeons managed to perform it.
Doctors said that the fact that they had been able to perform that and the patient had been able to come out of the operating room safely was a very important historic event and they planned to do their best to help Patrick.
Mr Hardison was injured in a house fire as he attempted to rescue a woman he believed was trapped in the blaze. He suffered third degree burns of his entire face and scalp.
"The amount of tissue that was transplanted in Patrick's face had not been transplanted before. We feel as a team, as a group, that it’s absolutely essential to remove all the scars and get down to healthy tissue in order for a patient to be normal, and being normal is defined by normal function and normal appearance.”
Surgeons slit the skin at the back of the donor's head, peeling each side forward with key pieces of bone attached at the chin, nose and cheekbone and then precisely draped it onto Hardison's head.
“ This is not an operation that is for everyone – it's for very courageous individuals. But now we have proven that technology, the ability to transplant the face has advanced.”
Hardison can now blink and even sleep with his eyes closed.
He had waited more than a year on a donor register for a perfect match – not only blood type but someone with fair skin and light hair. The donor was a 26-year-old, David Rodebaugh, who died in a cycling accident.
For the rest of his life, the father of five will have to take immunosuppressant drugs so his body does not reject his new face.