New York fire-fighter gets world’s first extensive face transplant
We have so far ahead in medicine and surgery, that it is possible for doctors to give face, hands and legs to patients who have lost theirs in accidents or to injuries.
One such astonishing series of surgeries gave a volunteer fire-fighter a new lease of life, recreating his face that he had lost saving someone’s life in a fire. In those series, there was one big surgery, that is now known as world’s most extensive face transplant surgery ever.
Here are the details of the operation that has given a man not only a new face but a whole new life after 14 years of agony.
1 The brave fire-fighter
Patrick Hardison was a volunteer fire-fighter with the Mississippi fire department in New York. In 2001, he and his team went in to fight a fire at a woman’s house. During the rescue, Hardison was severely injured when he tried to rescue a woman he believed to be trapped in the fire.
Hardison himself was injured badly during the fire, suffering 3rd degree burns all over the body and especially his face. His face was completely disfigured due to the heat and he spent a year on the transplant list waiting for a donor with not only the correct blood type, but also fair skin and light hair to match his looks.
2 Initial reconstruction procedure
During the initial procedure, he was given several skin grafts in order to recreate his face. His face was wrapped in skin grafts leaving holes in place of eyes and nostrils. He had lost his eyelids, ears, lips, facial hair and most of his nose in the accident.
Since that operation, whenever he went outside, he had to wear a baseball cap, sunglasses and prosthetic years to cover his appearance and wounds in public. “Kids ran screaming and crying when they saw me. There are things worse than dying”, he said. He since went under more than 70 surgeries for various corrections and alterations, while waiting for a donor to come up.
3 The transplant procedure
Finally, he got a donor, Brooklyn resident David Rodebaugh, 26 who was pronounced brain dead in a cycling accident.
The surgery was scheduled in August this year and was performed by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez and his team of 150 medical professionals. The overall time that took for the surgery was over 36 hours. Hardison received a full scalp and face, which included lips, both upper and lower eyelids, nose and ears.
The surgeries were done simultaneously with Hardison on one table and Rodebaugh on another table and multiple teams working on both of them. The NYU team had practiced for a year before the actual process to bring in efficiency and timing for the real thing.
“You only have one chance to land the Rover. The same goes with the face,” Rodriguez told a news conference in New York. The team had to remove the skin form the donor by slitting it at the back of his head and peeling each side with key pieces attached at the chin, nose and cheekbone.
Then, they draped the skin carefully onto Hardison’s head, matching each part with his. “Everything has to be perfectly positioned,” said Dr. Rodriguez.
4 The impressive results
The whole process and surgery was estimated $1 million dollars. The cost was borne was the NYU after the fireman association appealed to them on behalf of Patrick. Though Patrick will have to take anti-rejection injections and immunosuppressant drugs for rest of his life.
Hardison will also have to undergo some more operations in coming months to give a better shape to his eyes and remove extra skin in order to give him a clear vision.
The team took Patrick shopping for new clothes in a mall and not one person gave him a second look, showing that the surgery was successful. “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. I also want to thank Dr. Rodriguez and his amazing team. They have given me more than a new face. They have given me a new life.” Said Patrick in a press conference.