Patrick Hardison is a volunteer firefighter who suffered a terrible tragedy in 2001.
Patrick was responding to a search and rescue call at a blazing house fire. While he was in the house, the ceiling collapsed around him, trapping Hardison. He could feel the mask melting to his face. Patrick ripped off his mask, held his breath, closed his eyes, and somehow escaped the inferno.
By the time Patrick Hardison got out of the fire, no one could tell who he was.
“There was nothing left of his face to tell you who he was,” said Bricky Cole, one of Hardison’s friends and another volunteer firefighter on-scene that day.
People started working to save his life, not even knowing who it was. It wasn’t until he pulled Cole close and said, “You got to take care of Chrissi and the kids” that people knew who they were saving.
The blaze burned Hardison’s face so badly he lost his scalp, ears, eyelids, nose and lips. His entire face was gone.
Haridson underwent more than 70 surgeries over the next 10 years to try and bring back some semblance of his old self.
“My kids were scared to death of me. You can’t blame them. They’re young kids,” he said. “And you got to realize … we always did stuff every day, and all of the sudden that changed just overnight.”
In 2015, another tragic event to a different family would be life-changing for Patrick.
26-year-old David Rodebaugh was in a bike accident, which left him brain dead. Nancy Millar, David’s mother, made the tough decision to donate her son’s organs – including his face.
Two days later, during a 26 hour surgery, Patrick Hardison was getting a new face.
It’s been 15 months since the procedure, and Patrick is showing no signs of rejection.
“Now I’m just a normal guy,” says Hardison. “There’s no staring, no kids running off crying — that means everything.”
On November 7th, Hardison got to meet Nancy Millar face to new face. And she just had one request for Patrick.
“I said, ‘Can I kiss your forehead?'” Millar says. “That’s the one thing I wanted to do because every night before David went to bed when he was little, I kissed his forehead.”
The hope is that this story will provide inspiration for organ donors by showing just how important it can be.
Are you an organ donor? Let us know in the comments.