Firefighter receives first successful face transplant in New York

Courtesy Hardison Family/NYU Langone Medical CenterLeft to right: Patrick Hardison before and after his accident, then after a face transplant.

Patrick Hardison was fighting a mobile home fire in Senatobia, Mississippi in 2001 when he got trapped inside. The flames melted his face mask, and when the other firefighters pulled him out, his face was still on fire.

He spent the next two months in the hospital, and had more than 70 surgeries over the next decade. But the doctors couldn’t reconstruct his eyelids.

Everything changed in 2012, when Hardison met Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, a plastic surgeon at New York University Langone Medical Center. The two decided to try a full face transplant to get Hardison’s life back to normal.

The procedure would be incredibly risky: Transplants run a high chance of rejection because the body’s immune system can recognise foreign skin and attack it like an invader. They had a 50-50 shot of it working, according to New York Magazine, who was there for the surgery, and has the full story of Hardison’s journey.

Finding a donor was another struggle. They had to have the same size face, same blood type, and certain genes had to match. But this July, David Rodebaugh, who used to race BMX bikes professionally, was in an accident that threw him from his bike. By August 12, doctors declared him brain-dead. And he turned out to be a match for Hardison.

This August, surgeons at NYU Langone performed the face transplant, and Monday they will report that it has been a success.

Stay tuned for more information — we will update this story after the press conference.

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