A volunteer firefighter who was injured in the line of duty underwent “the most extensive face transplant to date,” NYU Langone Medical Center revealed on Monday.
The surgery — the first of its kind performed in the state — began the morning of Aug. 14, 2015 and concluded 26 hours later on the morning of Aug. 15, according to the Manhattan hospital. It involved a team of more than 100 physicians, nurses, and technical and support staff, led by Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez.
Patrick Hardison, 41, of Senatobia, Mississippi, was injured in September 2001 after he entered a burning home on a rescue search and its roof collapsed on him. He was left with disfiguring burns across his entire face, head, neck and upper torso, and lost his eyelids, ears, lips, and most of his nose as well as his hair including his eyebrows.
Hardison endured more than 70 surgeries, but “was still unable to return to a normal life,” according to the hospital. A member of his church and fellow firefighter then wrote to Dr. Rodriguez describing Patrick’s situation.
“When I met Patrick and heard his story, I knew that I had to do all that I could to help him — and every member of my team felt the same way. His surgery sets new standards in facial transplantation and will serve as an amazing learning tool. I am particularly encouraged with the success we have achieved in transplanting David’s eyelids and blinking mechanisms to Patrick. This is a major milestone – one that could lead to preserving vision in future patients,” he said in statement.
An important milestone of the surgery was that the donor’s eyelids and the muscles that control blinking were transplanted. This procedure had not been previously performed on a seeing patient. The surgery was also significant as it involved not only transplanting the face, but also the entire scalp.
Although Hardison traveled far for his surgery, his donor, David P. Rodebaugh, 26, was an Ohio-born Brooklyn artist and bicycling enthusiast, who died from injuries sustained in an accident
“I am deeply grateful to my donor and his family,” Hardison said in a 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.”