Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, like a brave bus driver who keeps a child from being kidnapped or a hardworking nurse. And, of course, you can't forget about the people who risk their lives to keep everyone else safe; police officers, military service members, and firefighters drop everything to rush to the aid of those in need each day.
Obviously, people with those kinds of jobs receive a huge amount of training and preparation to be able to do what they do as successfully and safely as possible. Unfortunately, though, all the training in the world can't prevent terrible things from happening. That's what happened when volunteer firefighter Patrick Hardison responded to a house fire in 2001. Warning: some of these photos may be disturbing to some viewers.
On September 5, 2001, Hardison entered a house that had caught fire to search for a woman who was still inside.
While he was looking for her, the roof collapsed on top of him, leaving him with third-degree burns over much of his upper body.
He was pulled from the building by a fellow firefighter and rushed to the hospital. He spent more than two months there, undergoing 71 surgeries during that time.
Doctors used layers of skin from his legs to replace the missing skin on his face and head. Even with those extensive procedures, Hardison was left with partial vision, prosthetic ears, and partial eyelids.
After nearly 14 years, Hardison received hopeful news from the specialists at NYU Langone Medical Center: he had finally been matched with a donor for the most extensive face transplant ever.
Hardison traveled from Mississippi to Langone to undergo the surgery, which lasted more than 26 hours and involved more than 100 medical professionals.
The transplant extends from the top of Hardison's head to his collarbone and includes both ears. Luckily, they were able to perform the surgery without creating any new scars.
The donor that made this possible was David Rodebaugh, an artist and competitive biker, who died following an accident at the age of 26.
"No parent should ever go through the pain of losing a child. But we felt that perhaps something good could come from something so tragic. That's why we decided to honor David's decision to donate his organs - so that others like Patrick Hardison can live on in his memory and benefit from his generosity. I wish Patrick and his family all the best as he embarks on a new life," Rodebaugh's mother, Nancy Millar, said regarding her son's donation.
Ten days after the surgery, Hardison was able to see his new face for the first time.
Now, Hardison finally has functioning ears, lips, and eyelids for the first time in over a decade, as well as growing hair.
Slowly, he has been able to heal.
The difference is incredible, especially when you look at his appearance side by side.
Luckily, Hardison has a great family support system, who have made this whole process much easier. He had three children before his tragic accident and had two more afterwards.
After his surgery, he was recognized again by his fellow firefighters.
He even has a firetruck dedicated to him.
Despite his terrible accident, Hardison says firefighting will always be a part of him.
At least now, thanks to David Rodebaugh, the team at NYU Langone Medical Center, and innovations in medicine, Hardison has a face of his own again.
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