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Meet the Man Who Received the Most Extensive Face Transplant Ever

2 minute read

A former volunteer firefighter who was disfigured more than a decade ago has a new lease on life after undergoing the most extensive face-transplant operation in history.

Pat Hardison, 41, who was severely burned in 2001, underwent 26 hours of surgery in August after being paired with an organ donor, ABC News reports. Plastic surgeon Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez said finding the right match required a lengthy search. “We’re looking at skeletal measurements we want them to match skeletally,” he said. “We look at specific distances of their eyes or nose or mouth, the lips, so we’re very specific in a face transplant.”

The donor was 26-year-old David Rodebaugh, who died in July after he crashed his bike and hit his head, which was not covered by a helmet, in Brooklyn. Rodebaugh’s mother agreed to donate his organs after she was contacted by LiveOnNY, a non-profit that pairs organ donors with patients. “She was told she could never have children and she had David and she felt very much that he was a miracle and that by doing this the miracle would continue,” Helen Irving, LiveOnNY president and CEO, told ABC.

The surgery cost an estimated $1 million, according to reconstructive surgeon Dr. Edward Rodriguez, and was paid for by NYC Langone Medical Center.

Hardison, who was told he had a 50-50 chance of surviving the surgery, still has constant pain and could still face potential complications from the surgery. So far, however, he’s enjoyed the feelings of normalcy the operation has provided. “I went to Macy’s to get clothes and I was just another guy, nobody is pointing or staring. I wasn’t scaring any kids,” he said. “It’s just—it’s very emotional, to have that.”

The full interview with Hardison will air on ABC’s Nightline this week.


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Write to Nolan Feeney at nolan.feeney@time.com