In August 2015, over 100 medical professionals from NYU Langone Medical Center performed what was considered the most complicated and extensive face transplant. The patient’s name is Patrick Hardison, a firefighter who has lived with severe facial disfigurement for 14 years.
Back in 2001, Hardison entered a burning home, then the roof collapsed and the blaze caused severe burns. The tragic incident led to the loss of his eyelids, ears, lips and damaged his nose severely, as well as most of his hair and eyebrows.
Thanks to the transplant, Patrick now has a new face, scalp, ears, ear canals, and eyelids. He also received selected portions of bone from the chin, cheeks, and an entire nose.
In the course of a year, the 42 year old has undergone several follow up procedures: adjustments to his eyelids and lips, removing the feeding tube from his abdomen, as well as the breathing tube from his trachea. “The surgery has truly given me back my life,” says Hardison. “I go about my day just like everyone else. It’s allowed me to do things with my family that I had not been able to do. I can’t tell you what a sense of freedom it is to even drive my kids to school. We recently went on a family vacation to Disney World, and I swam in the pool with them—something I hadn’t done in 15 years.”
Each is a major achievement in the course of his recovery, no doubt. Even so, the medical team behind this massive surgical undertaking are focusing on three major milestones—Hardison showing no signs of transplant rejection (which is a common complication with transplants); the eyelids and its blinking mechanism allowed him to preserve his eyesight; and conducting the most extensive soft tissue face transplant with no rejection.
A year into his surgery, Hardison has also expressed interest in meeting the family of his facial donor, David Rodebaugh. This undertaking has also paved the way for New York to explore more opportunities for strengthening legislation on organ donation. Helen Irving, president and CEO of LiveOnNY tells us, “The U.S. Department of Defense, in concert with transplant centers, is collaborating with insurance carriers to provide coverage for face transplantation. And here in New York, the state government is considering new legislation to strengthen opportunities for organ donation.”