Firefighter Receives World's Most Extensive Face Transplant

Firefighter Receives World's Most Extensive Face Transplant

Surgeons in New York have declared the most extensive face transplant ever a success, saying the procedure to give a firefighter the face of a brain-dead man stands as a “historic” achievement.

In August surgeons at New York University’s Langone Medical Center performed the transplant for 41-year-old Patrick Hardison, a retired fireman from Mississippi who suffered disfiguring injuries when a burning roof collapsed on him, melting his mask, in 2001.

Ninety-three days after the transplant, which had more than 100 people working in two teams for 26 hours, lead surgeon Eduardo Rodriguez said that Hardison’s body had not rejected the face, making him confident that the dangerous procedure could be called a success.

Medical school dean Robert Grossman called the transplant, the most extensive ever, “a major milestone and [a] critically important contribution to the advancement of science and medicine”.

Rodriguez had told Hardison he had a 50/50 chance at surviving the transplant, which involved the meticulous closure and reconnection of blood vessels and nerves, cutting away Hardison’s scarred face, refitting facial bone and “re-draping” skin across his face.

Hardison received the face of David Rodebaugh, a 26-year-old bike mechanic from Brooklyn who was left in a vegetative state by a cycling accident. Hellen Irving, the head of a organ procurement organization, relayed a message from Rodebaugh’s mother, who said that her son was “born a miracle” and now “the miracle of David will live on”.

Face transplant donor David Rodebaugh.

Rodebaugh’s heart, kidney, liver and eyes were also donated to patients waiting for eligible transplants.

Irving said that finding a match for Hardison was particularly difficult. The team needed to find a matching blood type, height, weight, skin tone, hair color and, “most importantly, no antibodies that would cause Patrick to reject his donor”, she said.

Because the skin is the body’s largest organ and its main defense – and thus its first and strongest guard against disease and infection – Hardison will have to take pills to suppress his immune system for the rest of his life, Rodriguez said.


 By Patrick Hardison, The Guardian


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