You’ve definitely heard some incredible stories, but the one about the life of Patrick Hardison from Mississippi is about to knock your socks off!
Patrick was the first guy to have a face transplant in 2015 after being caught in a burning house in 2001, which left his face severely scarred.
He began his career as a volunteer firefighter early in life. He never hesitated to help everyone who needed it, until one day a home collapsed on top of him, trapping him. His torso and face had been severely burned.
“[My mask] was melting to my face,” Patrick had a dreadful experience. “My hose [was] already melted.”
“For somebody who does what we do for a living, I’ve never seen anybody burned that bad who was still alive,” friend and first responder Jimmy Neal said of meeting Patrick after the tragedy.
The injuries on Patrick’s face and scalp were classed as third-degree burns. He had burns on his head, neck, and upper chest as well. His lips, as well as the majority of his nose and eyelid tissue, were entirely destroyed.
“I probably didn’t see myself until November.” “I was injured in September,” Patrick explained to Fox News. “They had cut a small pinhole in one of my eyelids because they had covered everything with a skin graft.” I stared in the mirror and all I could think was, “Is this it?” “I can’t do it,” he remembered.
Patrick had to endure nearly 70 surgeries and various procedures, believe it or not. He couldn’t cover his eyes, and surgeons had to sew skin flaps together to safeguard his vision, but he was still at risk of going blind…
The agony was unbearable every time he ate. He couldn’t tolerate looking at himself in the mirror, and everyone stared at him everywhere he went. He couldn’t be around anyone, not even his own children…
Patrick always wore a baseball cap and sunglasses to protect himself and his appearance. He also wore an ear prosthesis.
“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 is 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 lost all hope to have a “normal” life, but it all changed when a French woman Isabelle Dinoire got a face transplant after her dog disfigured most of it. This procedure was revolutionary and it gave Patrick hope that he could be the next standing in line.
He met with doctor Eduardo D. Rodriguez from the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York who promised him he’ll do everything he could to do the face transplant as successful as possible IF they find a matching donor. One day LiveOnNY, a nonprofit that coordinates organ donations in New York found a match.
The 26-year-old David Rodebaugh sustained a severe head injury in a bike accident and has been declared brain dead. His face was going to be transplanted on Patrick’s.
Nancy Millar, David Rodebaugh’s mother, 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 told People.
She hoped that her son’s legacy, or at least a part of him, would be used to save someone else’s life, 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 finally came, and the procedure was performed by 100s of professionals and lasted for 26 hours.
Of course, with every surgery comes a risk, and this one had a 50/50 percent chance of survival. But Patrick was lucky to be under the wing of hundreds of professionals. He received a new face, scalp, ears, ear canals, and eyelids which allowed him to blink naturally and save his vision.
“Everything in life has a risk,” Patrick told Time Magazine.
“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.”
After the swelling was better and he learned how to talk and swallow again, Patrick met with Nancy, the donor’s mother. She had one heartwarming request: to kiss Patrick on the forehead.
“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 and people who receive an organ transplant take anti-rejection medications that suppress your body’s natural defense system (immune system) to prevent it from recognizing your transplant as a “foreign invader” and attacking it. However, Patrick is thriving with his new life and facial outlook.
Today he is divorced and is working on a book that will help people who think there’s no way out of a situation they put 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 overall recovery and the chance of surviving the accident are dubbed miraculous. Thanks to all the professionals who fixed his face, along with the generous offer from Nancy, Patrick is a happy man today.
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