Patrick Hardison Received A New Face After Third-Degree Burns, This Is Him Today

The incredible journey of Patrick Hardison from Mississippi is truly astounding. He made history as the first American to undergo a face transplant in 2015, following severe disfigurement to his face and neck in a devastating house fire.

Patrick’s life was a great one up until the day the tragedy struck in 2001.

Having served as a volunteer firefighter in his earlier years, Patrick didn't hesitate to respond when called to assist with a house fire. Tragically, as he entered the burning structure, it collapsed, pinning him beneath the debris. He was unable to move, sustaining severe burns to his torso and face.

“[My mask] was melting to my face,” Patrick recalled. “My hose [was] already melted.” 

“For somebody who does what we do for a living, I’ve never seen anybody burned that bad that was still alive,” friend and first responder Jimmy Neal told CBS News of seeing Patrick after the accident.

Youtube/ABC News

Patrick endured third-degree burns on his face and scalp, along with burns to his head, neck, and upper torso. The fire also resulted in the loss of his ears, lips, a significant portion of his nose, and even most of the tissue around his eyelids.

“I didn’t actually see myself until probably November. I got injured in September,” Patrick told Fox News. “They had cut a little pinhole in one of my eyelids because they had everything covered, skin graft. I looked in the mirror and all I could do, I said, ‘this is it? I can’t do this,’” he recalled.

Throughout the years, Patrick underwent more than 70 surgeries and numerous other procedures. Unable to close his eyes, doctors constructed skin flaps to safeguard his vision. Despite these efforts, the risk of blindness remained a daunting concern.

Youtube/NYU Langone Health

Patrick experienced unbearable pain whenever he attempted to eat. His struggle with adjusting to this new reality was compounded by the inability to face his reflection in the mirror. Everywhere he went, he felt the weight of people's stares, making it difficult to be in social settings, even around his own children.

To shield and safeguard himself, Patrick consistently wore sunglasses and a baseball cap. Additionally, he utilized ear prosthetics as part of his efforts to conceal his injuries.

“I had kids. It was just a tough time. I never got a day off from the injury. When you walk out in public, it was daily. And, you know, it’s just so — there’s no way to explain everything,” he told Yahoo! Sports.

“You go to the ball field, you have to prepare yourself for the kid that goes running off screaming.”

Youtube/NYU Langone Health

As the years passed, Patrick's hope for a normal life dwindled. However, a ray of hope emerged when a French woman named Isabelle Dinoire underwent a groundbreaking partial face transplant after being severely disfigured by her pet dog. This historic procedure offered Patrick a glimmer of hope during his darkest moments of struggle.

Patrick encountered Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez from NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, who assured him of performing the transplant surgery if a suitable donor could be found. Despite the challenges, a potential donor unexpectedly emerged. LiveOnNY, a nonprofit organization facilitating organ donations in the New York region, identified a match. The face destined for Patrick had belonged to 26-year-old David Rodebaugh, who had suffered a severe head injury in a cycling accident and had been declared brain dead.

Youtube/Inside Edition

Nancy Millar, the mother of the young man, made the heartfelt decision to donate her son's organs, including his face. She expressed her sentiment, stating, "I said, 'You better save his face. He has the face of a porcelain doll.' And he’s a donor — we had talked about it," as recounted in People magazine.

The prospect of someone receiving her son's face meant that David's legacy would endure, as he would live on through the individuals whose lives he was about to impact, including Patrick's.

“When I met Patrick, I saw this strength, this strong, manly, burly kind of energy in him — that David had,” Nancy recalled.

“David wanted to be a firefighter, an I knew if this guy was a firefighter — he was willing to walk into a fire to save people and risk his own life — then he had the strength that David had.”

Youtube/Inside Edition – David

At last, the day of the transplant surgery arrived. The procedure stretched over 26 grueling hours and involved a team of 100 professionals.

The stakes were high, with Patrick facing a 50/50 chance of survival. Fortunately, the surgery was a monumental success. Patrick received a new face, scalp, ears, and ear canals. Additionally, he was provided with eyelids, enabling him to blink naturally and preserve his vision.

“Everything in life has a risk,” Patrick told Time Magazine.

“When it’s your time to go, you’ll go—whether you’re walking down the street and get hit by a car or you’re lying on the operating table.”

Youtube/NYU Langone Health

Following his recovery from swelling and the relearning of basic functions like talking and swallowing, Patrick had a poignant encounter with his donor's mother. Nancy had a simple yet profound request - to kiss Patrick on the forehead.

“I said, ‘Can I kiss your forehead?’” Nancy said. “That’s the one thing I wanted to do because every night before David went to bed when he was little, I kissed his forehead.”

“I’ve been waiting a year to meet her. I’m just very grateful,” Patrick added. “Without her, it wouldn’t have been possible. It’s like she’s family. We connected that easily.”


Since the surgery, Patrick has been taking anti-rejection medication to prevent his immune system from rejecting the transplanted face. Remarkably, he is thriving. He not only received a new face but also a new lease on life.

Today, Patrick is divorced and is currently working on a book. He hopes this book will serve as inspiration for anyone who feels trapped in their circumstances. "I want to show the world that there is hope. I don't want people who were once like me to believe they're stuck living a certain way. You're not. You can achieve anything," Patrick shares.

His survival and recovery are often described as miraculous. Thanks to Nancy, Dr. Rodriguez and his team, and Patrick's unwavering determination, he is now a contented man.

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