Most Extensive Face Transplant: A Success
A volunteer firefighter from Senatobia, Mississippi, 41-year old Patrick Hardison, whose face was burned off during a fire rescue in 2001, is the recipient of the world’s most extensive face transplant.
The operation which took place in August, at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, was led by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez and took up to 26 hours. The donor was a 26-year-old, David Rodebaugh, who was fatally injured in a cycling accident.
Hardison, in his attempt to rescue a woman, who he thought was trapped in the blaze received third degree burns of his entire face and scalp, leaving them covered in skin grafts and scarring. He waited more than a year on a donor register for a perfect match who does not only have the same blood type but also someone with fair skin and light hair. But then, the long wait was worth it as he received a full scalp and face, including ears, nose, lips and upper and lower eyelids.
According to the team, it is considered as the most extensive face transplant to date, but during that time, the team at the NYU Langone Medical Center said the procedure had a 50:50 chance of working.Dr Rodriguez estimates that no more than five of the other patients who have received facial transplants around the world died after the new tissue was rejected.
Dr. Rodriguez said that simultaneous surgeries took place, with Hardison on one operating table while Rodebaugh was on the other. Plus, the NYU medical team had practiced for a full year to get it right.
The team, composed of 150-members, slit the skin at the back of the donor’s head, peeling each side forward with key pieces of bone attached at the chin, nose and cheekbone and then precisely draped it, like Batman’s cowl, onto Hardison’s head.
In a press conference, Rodriguez said “The amount of tissue transplanted in Patrick has not been done before. He is doing very well today for only day 93 [post-op].”
Moreover, he told Reuters following a news conference in New York earlier on Monday that “You only have one chance to land the Rover. The same goes with the face.”
“Everything has to be perfectly positioned,” he adds. Including the bones, muscles, ear canals, lips and nerves.
The $1 million surgery was considered a success after Hardison was taken shopping at Macy’s and no one in the store paused to give him a second look.
More operations to come
Mr Hardison is said to need more operations in a few months in order to remove some of the loose skin around his eyes and lips. On the other hand, Hardison can now blink and sleep with his eyes closed, thus staving off the blindness that has threatened him.
He is extremely grateful both to his donor as well as the surgical team. According to him, “They have given me more than a new face. They have given me a new life.” And in another statement, he thanked his donor’s family, saying, “I hope they see in me the goodness of their decision.”