Patrick Hardison, 42, dreamed of watching his children’s baseball games without parents whispering and pointing as they comforted their crying lads who were frightened by his severely disfigured face.
After undergoing what was considered in 2016 to be the most extensive face transplant ever performed, Hardison returned to his family in Mississippi to begin his new life over a decade after he sustained extensive facial burns to his head, neck, and upper torso in a house fire he was responding to as a volunteer firefighter. The fire also claimed his ears, lips, most of his nose and most of his eyelid tissue.
“I didn’t actually see myself until probably November. I got injured in September, “Hardison told Sean Hannity in a Fox News exclusive interview Monday.
“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.
Despite 71 surgeries and various procedures, Hardison said he had a difficult time accepting his new deformities.
“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 said.
“You go to the ball field, you have to prepare yourself for the kid that goes running off screaming.”
It was just when he began to lose hope when a friend of his stumbled across Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez of NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, who had been known to do one other face transplant of the sort.
Rodriguez assembled a team of 100 doctors, nurses and medical aides as he prepared to perform the most extensive soft tissue face transplant ever recorded.
The surgery took 26 hours, and extended from the top of his head, over his skull and down to the collarbones in front. Even then, the married father of five was given only a 50-50 chance of survival.
Rodriguez and his team were able to give Hardison a new face, scalp, ears and ear canals, and selected portions of bone from the chin, cheeks and entire nose.
He also received new eyelids and regained the ability to blink naturally.
Five years since his historic recovery, Hardison is hoping to spread a message of hope and perseverance to others struggling with debilitating injuries.
“I’ve bought my own place, working on getting a house built. I’m working on a book,” he told Hannity. “Because I want to show the world that you can have hope. I wouldn’t want people that were like me years ago to think that’s it, I have to live like this. You don’t. You can accomplish anything,” he said.
“You do know that your courage is now going to help other people,” Hannity remarked.
“I hope so,” Hardison responded. ” I mean, that’s what I want to do. I want to help — 22 veterans a day commit suicide. 97% of the people that have facial injuries as significant as mine commit suicide and I understand that,” he said, “but they also don’t have hope. They’re thinking, ‘you know, I have to live like this — but you don’t. There’s hope for everyone out there has that type of injury.”