NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Monday, November 16, 2015, 1:47 AM
He’s grown accustomed to his face.
A Mississippi firefighter, just months removed from the most extensive face transplant ever performed, has cleared one of his biggest hurdles — ownership.
“It’s mine,” the firefighter said.
Patrick Hardison wasn’t trying to diminish the donor, a Brooklyn man who died in a bicycle accident. He was just facing a reality that doctors say will go a long way toward helping his recovery.
According to New York Magazine — which spoke with Hardison, his transplant surgeon and the family of the Brooklyn donor — five of the now 30 patients who have received facial transplants have died after rejection, and Hardison is likely to reject his transplant, too.
But Hardison, 41, who has endured 71 operations over 12 years, has faced tough odds before. The groundbreaking transplant, performed at NYU Langone Medical Center in August, had only a 50% chance of success.
“You have to understand: If it were to fail, there is no bailout option,” surgeon Eduardo Rodriguez told him. “You would likely die. This is a procedure that is all or none.”
Hardison’s faceless odyssey began September 5, 2001, when the Senatobia, Miss., volunteer firefighter got trapped while fighting a mobile home blaze that melted his mask and burned his face.
Hardison lost his face fighting a fire 14 years earlier. Here, Hardison is pictured before the surgery.
The transplanted face belonged to a young Brooklyn bike messenger named David Rodebaugh who died in July 2015.
He survived several rounds of reconstructive surgery, and even got back to work at his tire shop business. But his painkiller addiction took him down another destructive path.
“People don’t understand how hard it is just to face the day,” Hardison said. “And it doesn’t end. It’s every day.”
And that was before a decline in his vision forced him to give up driving.
“I was a 40-year-old man waiting for my mother to drive me around,” he said. “I lost everything. I was so young.”
Enter David Rodebaugh, 27, of Brooklyn, a bike messenger who died in the August crash. Two days later, his face was on another man’s head.