WTH!!! Man Gets 'Most Extensive Face Transplant Ever,' [Video]


For the past 14 years, former volunteer firefighter Patrick Hardison, whose face was burned off in a 2001 fire, has been living in his own personal hell.

"My kids were scared to death of me," he told ABC's Nightline. "You can't blame them. They're young kids."

Now – thanks to an Aug. 14 face transplant at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City – Hardison, 41, is almost back to the way he looked before a fire burnt off his eyelids, scalp, ears and lips and melted his face.

"I went to Macy's to get clothes and I was just another guy, nobody is staring," he told Nightline. "I wasn't scaring any kids. It's just – it's very emotional to have that."

Volunteer Firefighter Gets 'Most Extensive Face Transplant Ever,' Doctors Say| Health, Real People Stories
Patrick Hardison before his surgery (left) and after
NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER
Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the surgeon who led the 100-member team that performed Hardison's operation, says that was a big day for his patient.

"He couldn't believe he would ever have people not stare," Rodriguez, chair of Langone's Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery, tells PEOPLE. "He kinda had an emotional catharsis afterward. He finally said, 'This is it. I'm not going back to the way I was, the way I lived for 14 years.' "





The surgery took 26 hours to complete and was the most extensive face transplant ever performed – covering much of Hardison's skull and neck, said Dr. Robert Grossman, the dean and CEO of Langone.

Hardison's hair is already growing and he should regain his vision now that he has new eyelids. He also has new ears. The results are better than they ever could have dreamed, Rodriguez said.

"With this new face, I think we're now giving Patrick a chance for a new beginning," Rodriguez said at a press conference Monday morning unveiling the results of Hardison's facial transplant.

Volunteer Firefighter Gets 'Most Extensive Face Transplant Ever,' Doctors Say| Health, Real People Stories
Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez
NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER
Hardison was a 27-year-old volunteer firefighter on Sept. 5, 2001, when a ceiling collapsed on him while searching for a victim in a burning mobile home.

My mask "was melting off my face," he told Nightline.

He spent the next 63 days in the hospital, fighting for his life – and the next 14 years undergoing more than 70 surgeries, hoping for a miracle that would make him look normal again while he battled suicidal thoughts.

Volunteer Firefighter Gets 'Most Extensive Face Transplant Ever,' Doctors Say| Health, Real People Stories
Patrick Hardison prior to the accident
COURTESY PATRICK HARDISON
"He thought about it every day – this is going to be the day my life will change or it will end," Rodriguez says, "because he knew there far worse things than dying in his book. And he did not see himself living that way forever.

"He told me his darkest time was in 2008, which correlates well with the fact at that time he was told there was nothing [doctors] could do to improve him," Rodriguez adds.

A friend urged him to send his records to Rodriguez, who'd performed another successful face transplant in 2012. Hardison successfully went through the lengthy, arduous vetting process and was put on LiveonNY's transplant list in August 2014.

Volunteer Firefighter Gets 'Most Extensive Face Transplant Ever,' Doctors Say| Health, Real People Stories
David Rodebaugh
NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER
Then in July 2015, a tragedy befell another family. David Rodebaugh, 26, was riding his bike without a helmet in Brooklyn when he crashed and hit his head. He ended up being the perfect donor for Hardison.

"No parent should ever go through the pain of losing a child," Nancy Miller, Rodebaugh's mother, said in a statement released by Langone. "But we felt that perhaps something good could come from something so tragic. That’s why we decided to honor David’s decision to donate his organs – so that others like Patrick Hardison can live on in his memory and benefit from his generosity."

Hardison, who is out of the hospital and hoping to be home by Thanksgiving, says he is "deeply grateful" to his donor and family.

"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," he said in a statement released by Langone. "I hope they see in me the goodness of their decision."


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