You probably heard a lot of mind-blowing stories, but the one about the life of Patrick Hardison from Mississippi is about to blow you out of your socks!
Back in 2015, Patrick was the first man to receive a face transplant after he was caught in a burning house that left his face completely disfigured back in 2001.
He began on a humble path as a volunteer firefighter earlier in his life. Whenever his help was needed, he didn’t hesitate a second, until one day a house collapsed on top of him and trapped him. His torso and face were severely burnt.
“[My mask] was melting to my face,” Patrick recalled a terrible memory. “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 burns on his face and scalp were classified as 3rd degree burns. He also had burns on his head, neck and upper torso. His lips were completely destroyed along with most of his nose and eyelid tissue.
“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.
Believe it or not, Patrick had to sustain over 70 surgeries and other procedures. He couldn’t close his eyes and doctors managed to put together flaps of skin to protect his vision, but there was always the risk of going blind…
Every time he ate, the pain was insurmountable. He couldn’t stand to look himself in the mirror, and everywhere he went people starred at him. He couldn’t hang around with people, even with his own children…
To protect himself and his look, Patrick always had a baseball cap and sunglasses on him. He also had ear prosthetic.
“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 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 the New York found a match.
The 26-year-old David Rodebaugh sustained a severe head injury in a bike accident and has been declared as 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 sons legacy, or at least a part of him, will 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, an 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 which suppress your body’s natural defence 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 him surviving the accident are dubbed miraculous. Thanks to all the professionals that fixed his face, along with the generous offer from Nancy, Patrick is a happy man today.
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