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The ‘most extensive’ face transplant in history gives firefighter new life

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A 41-year-old volunteer firefighter from Mississippi now lives with the face of a 26-year-old Brooklyn bike mechanic.

A plastic surgeon at the New York University Langone Medical Center performed the “most extensive” face transplant surgery in history, according to an article in New York Magazine.

The volunteer firefighter, Patrick Hardison, has undergone over 70 surgeries to recreate the face that was burned off 14 years ago while he fought a mobile home fire thinking its resident was still inside, according to the story.

The resident was OK, but Hardison was not when the mobile home ceiling crashed on his head. A variety of surgeries doctors tried to help him. They took skin from his thighs to help create a face. They put posts in his skull from which to hang prosthetic ears. They turned his lips inside out to give him new ones, but nothing was enough to keep him from scaring the neighbor kids, he told the magazine.

David Rodebaugh was a mechanic died after a bike accident in July. LiveonNY contacted Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez to let them know there may be a potential face donor for Hardison.

The New York University plastic surgeon performed the operation, but it was not without its challenges, according to the magazine. The jugular was not a perfect match, and Hardison lost a lot of blood. But the Johns Hopkins-educated surgeon was able to save him.

Hardison will have to take medicine for the rest of his life so his body will not reject his new face. Of the 30 face transplants to date, five patients have died.

The bike mechanic’s mother asked to see Hardison, according to the magazine, but she did not recognize her son’s face on Hardison. The face has already taken on a different look adapting to Hardison’s bone structure.

Hardison will spend the rest of his life in constant pain, but to have a face of his own, he told the magazine, “I can live with the pain.”