The life story of Mississippian Patrick Hardison is nothing less than mind-blowing. After a house fire irreparably disfigured his face and neck, this guy underwent his first face transplant in America in 2015.
Up until the tragic day in 2001, Patrick’s life was wonderful.
He had been a volunteer firefighter in the past, so when he was approached to help put out a house fire, he didn’t hesitate. Sadly, as soon as he entered the part that was on fire, it collapsed, trapping him. He couldn’t move because of the serious burns on his face and chest.
“[My mask] was melting to my face,” Patrick recalled. “My hose [was] already melted.”
“For somebody who does what we do for a living, I’ve never seen anybody burned that bad that was still alive,” friend and first responder Jimmy Neal told CBS News of seeing Patrick after the accident.
Patrick’s face and scalp were burned to the third degree. His head, neck, and upper chest were also burned. His ears, lips, most of his nose, and even the majority of the tissue in his eyelids were destroyed by the fire.
“I didn’t actually see myself until probably November. I got injured in September,” Patrick told Fox News. “They had cut a little pinhole in one of my eyelids because they had everything covered, skin graft. I looked in the mirror and all I could do, I said, ‘This is it? I can’t do this,’” he recalled.
Over the years, this man was forced to undergo over 70 surgeries, as well as other procedures. He couldn’t close his eyes and doctors were able to put together flaps of skin to protect his vision, but he was still facing the risk of going blind.
Patrick was in agonizing discomfort and unable to eat. He simply couldn’t look at himself in the mirror, thus he was unable to adjust to this life. Everyone stared at him everywhere he went, and he could hardly handle being around anyone, not even his kids.
Patrick often sported a baseball cap and sunglasses to shield himself and blend in. He also has artificial ears.“I had kids. It was just a tough time. I never got a day off from the injury. When you walk out in public, it was daily. And, you know, it’s just so — there’s no way to explain everything,” he told Yahoo! Sports.
“You go to the ball field, you have to prepare yourself for the kid that goes running off screaming.”
Patrick eventually gave up on ever leading a normal life as the years passed. But after having her face seriously scarred by her pet dog, a Frenchwoman by the name of Isabelle Dinoire underwent a partial face transplant. This process was ground-breaking. It was the first of its sort ever. It undoubtedly gave Patrick, who was at that moment genuinely struggling, a glimmer of optimism.
When Patrick contacted Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez from the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, he was informed that if a suitable donor could be found, he would perform the transplant procedure. Though it wasn’t always simple, a donor unexpectedly showed up one day. A match had been made.
David Rodebaugh, 26, who had suffered a severe head injury in a cycling accident and had been pronounced brain dead, was about to get on belonged to Patrick.
This young man’s mother, Nancy Millar, decided to donate her son’s organs, including his face. “I said, ‘You better save his face. He has the face of a porcelain doll.’ And he’s a donor — we had talked about it,” Millar explained.
The thought of someone receiving her son’s face meant that David would continue to live on through the people whose lives he was about to save, including Patrick’s.
“When I met Patrick, I saw this strength, this strong, manly, burly kind of energy in him — that David had,” Nancy recalled.
“David wanted to be a firefighter, and I knew if this guy was a firefighter — he was willing to walk into a fire to save people and risk his own life — then he had the strength that David had.”
The day of the transplant operation had finally come. A group of 100 experts worked together to complete the surgery, which took 26 arduous hours.
Patrick was given a 50/50 chance of surviving because the risk was so great. Fortunately, it was a rousing success. Patrick’s face, scalp, ears, and ear canals were all replaced. Additionally, he got eyelids, which let him blink normally and preserved his vision.
“Everything in life has a risk,” Patrick remarked.
“When it’s your time to go, you’ll go—whether you’re walking down the street and get hit by a car or you’re lying on the operating table.”
Patrick got to know his donor’s mother once the swelling subsided and he regained his speech and swallowing abilities. Nancy merely wanted Patrick to give her a forehead kiss.
“I said, ‘Can I kiss your forehead?’” Nancy said. “That’s the one thing I wanted to do because every night before David went to bed when he was little, I kissed his forehead.”
“I’ve been waiting a year to meet her. I’m just very grateful,” Patrick added. “Without her, it wouldn’t have been possible. It’s like she’s family. We connected that easily.”
Patrick has been doing well despite using anti-rejection medications since the surgery to stop his immune system from rejecting the face. He not only got a new look, but also a new life.
He is currently divorced and writing a book that he hopes would inspire everyone who thinks there is no way out of the predicament they have found themselves in. “Because I want to show the world that you can have hope. I wouldn’t want people that were like me years ago to think that’s it, I have to live like this. You don’t. You can accomplish anything,” Patrick says.
His survival and his recovery are dubbed miraculous. Thanks to Nancy, Dr. Rodriguez, and his team, and Patrick’s strong will, today, he is a happy man.
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