When volunteer firefighter Patrick Hardison was 27, he rushed into a burning house to save a woman who was purportedly inside. The ceiling collapsed on him and he emerged with most of his face entirely burnt off.
This past August, Hardison, now 41, received an entirely new scalp and face. For the first time since 2001, he has ears, a nose, lips, and eyelids — the last was especially crucial because, although he retained his vision on the fire, he was unable to blink or close his eyes for 14 years. His new face was donated by 26-year-old David Rodebaugh, a young BMX biker from Brooklyn, who was pronounced brain dead after being thrown off his bike. New York University Langone Medical Center announced the news on Monday.
The revolutionary face transplant took 26 hours and was performed by plastic surgeon Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, along with a 150-person medical team. NYU covered the cost of the $1 million surgery.
According to Reuters, “The team 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, like Batman's cowl, onto Hardison's head.” Although face transplants have been performed before, this is the most extensive surgery of this kind yet.
As for Hardison, he said of his donor in statement: “Even though I did not know who they would be, I prayed for them every day, knowing the difficult decision they would have to make in order to help me. I hope they see in me the goodness of their decision."
Photos by Peter Foley / Landov