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Extensive Face, Scalp Transplant Gives New Life to Burned Firefighter

  • VOA News

A 41-year-old firefighter badly burned in a 2001 blaze has undergone one of the most extensive full-face transplants ever to be completed.

Patrick Hardison underwent the 26-hour surgery at New York University's Langone Medical Center in August.

The transplant extends from the top of his head, over the skull and down to the collarbones in the front. In the back it reaches around the hairline and includes both ears.

Hardison was a 27-year-old volunteer firefighter when he sustained third degree burns over his head and neck during a house fire in Senatobia, Mississippi.

Over the next 14 years he underwent a series of 71 operations that left him with extensive scarring and limited sight.

During the August procedure his scarring was cut away and the donor face was laid over his head and secured into position using screws and metal plates. Pieces of bone were also placed around the nose, chin and cheekbones to prevent his new face from sagging.

With his new eyelids, Hardison is expected to regain a normal field of vision for the first time in more than a decade. Doctors say he also will have to take medicine for the rest of his life to prevent any rejection of the transplant.

The donor was identified as David Rodebaugh, a 26-year-old bike mechanic killed in a cycling accident.

The organization that facilitated finding the donor told The Associated Press that Rodebaugh's mother gave permission to use his face noting that he always wanted to be a firefighter.

The entire procedure cost about $850,000 and was paid for by a university grant.

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