The man who received the most extensive face transplant in history after suffering from burns working as a volunteer firefighter has spoken out about his recovery.
Patrick Hardison, 43, said that he ‘bet it all’ when he decided to undergo the potentially-fatal operation – but that he won that bet.
Hardison’s chances of surviving were 50/50, and a previous patient who had undergone the procedure in France had died.
But, even though he knew this, Hardison said that he never thought about backing out of the operation because ‘death is not the worst thing that can happen’.
The incident that caused Hardison’s disfigurement drastically changed his life because people’s perceptions of him were altered. People were cruel to him in public, pointing and staring when they saw his face.
But he said the idea of a face transplant gave him hope, explaining: ‘I had been miserable for 14 years by this time.’
Hardison’s facial burns happened in September 2001 when he was putting out a house fire in his hometown of Senatobia, Mississippi, and a burning ceiling fell on him.
His helmet and breathing apparatus melted, and his eyelids and ears were burned off. Hardison had to spend 63 days in a burn unit after the incident and doctors took skin from his thighs to replace the flesh that had melted off his face.
He had to have more than 70 surgeries to treat his burn during the next ten years. Hardison said his injury caused people, including his own children, to be afraid of the sight of him.
In 2011 his doctor told him he was at risk for losing his vision because his eyelids were missing, and he then started considering a face transplant. Hardison said that after learning of the surgery he never once got cold feet about having it done.
He said to the Detroit Free Press: ‘I never wanted to back out. Death is not the worst thing that can happen. I told the doctor that I’d rather be dead than live like I was.’
‘The only surgery close to mine was attempted in France and the patient died. I knew all that before I went in, but I was willing. All or nothing, that’s what I wanted to do. I bet it all,’ Hardison explained.
The medical team that performed Hardison’s operation in August 2015 at New York University Langone Medical Center was more than 100 strong, and his surgery took 26 hours.
He received the face of David Rodebaugh, a 26-year-old bike mechanic who died following a cycling accident.
Hardison expressed gratitude for organ donors such as Rodebaugh who allow sick people and survivors to have a new lease on life at an organ donation conference on Sunday.
He also spoke about how his life has changed since he received the operation, explaining that that the cruel stares and comments have stopped.
‘I can go places with my kids now. I went to Disney World last year, and it’s the first time my two little boys had been anywhere where people didn’t say: “What happened?” and all that stuff,’ Hardison said.