Spreading Good Cheer- Firefighter Receives Full Face Transplant and a New Look on LifeThere are so many stories of catastrophic injuries sustained by people going under the knife. When something good happens, we think it is important that we share it with you, especially at this time of the year.

Patrick Hardison was a volunteer firefighter. In 2001, he was hit by the weight of falling ceiling while on a call, and the mask literally melted to his face. For the last 14 years, he has lived with burn scars so severe that his own children were afraid to look at him. He underwent 71 surgeries and lost his family home as a result of the tremendous medical expenses. But in August of 2015, he underwent a life-altering surgery, thanks to a donor named David Rodebaugh.

The full-face transplant was the most extensive ever done. Mr. Hardison received a “full scalp and face, including ears, nose, lips and upper and lower eyelids,” according to Reuters. His surgeons practiced for a full year, and the transplant took 26 hours to complete. It took 150 people to complete the procedure, led by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez.

A history of facial transplants

Facial transplants are a relatively new procedure. The first one was performed in 2005 in France, on a woman whose face had been bitten by a dog. Three years later, the Cleveland Clinic performed the first partial transplant in the U.S. In total, only a little more than 20 such procedures have been performed across the globe in the last 10 years. While the circumstances surrounding these types of surgeries are highly detailed and very rare – there is no general donation box to check on a driver’s license, for example – they have been overwhelmingly successful. According to Johns Hopkins, none of the people who have received facial transplants experienced a rejection of the tissue: a true record.

Mr. Hardison’s procedure is so important not only because it gave a man a chance at a real life again, but because of how extensive it was. That he can now live a more “normal” life – the Reuters article says that medical personnel took him shopping at Macy’s and no one even noticed him – is the best possible ending to such a devastating story. It gives us hope that more people with debilitating injuries and disfigurement will find their own happy endings, too.