In 2001, Patrick Hardison was a 27-year-old volunteer firefighter in the small town of Senatobia, Mississippi. His day job was running the tire shop off Main Street.

Business was good. He’d purchased his dream home, a four-bedroom on 20 acres for his wife and three children, and planned to retire at 40.

In the afternoon of September 5th, Hardison was called to the firehouse and got a seat on the truck to fight a fire in a mobile home about 15 miles away.

When they arrived, the scene was grim. A man was outside, screaming that his wife was still in the home. Hardison and three others entered the home. The ceiling was already collapsing in sections. Hardison didn’t see anyone, and backed out of the door. Then he spotted a window and climbed through it back into the burning structure.

A few minutes later, Hardison’s chief screamed for his team to get out. Hardison was retreating when the ceiling collapsed on his head and shoulders. His mask was melting on his face. He pulled the mask off, held his breath and closed his eyes. Somehow, he made it out. But his face was gone including his ears, lips, most of his nose and most of his eyelid tissue.

Ultimately, the woman they thought might have been trapped in the house walked up the road. She’d been fishing.
But Hardison’s life as he knew it was over. In an interview with Sean Hannity this week, Hardison said “I didn’t actually see myself until probably November. I got injured in September.”

“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.

In the ensuing years he endured 71 surgeries, fought a substance abuse problem, lost his business and his house.
“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.

In 2012, he’d hit rock bottom, when a friend connected him with Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez of NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, who was an expert on face transplants.

Rodriguez warned Hardison that the surgery had only a 50 percent chance of success. This would be the most extensive face transplant yet performed — including the entire scalp, ears, and eyelids. “You have to remove the old face to the bare bones,” he explained. “You have to understand: If it were to fail, there is no bailout option. You would likely die. This is a procedure that is all or none.”

In 2015, a suitable donor was found and Rodriguez with a team of over 100 doctors and nurses performed the most extensive soft tissue face transplant ever recorded.

It took 12 hours to remove the face from the donor, and 14 hours to attach it to Hardison.

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.

Finally, five years on, Hardison is rebuilding his life and hoping to spread a message of hope to others struggling with debilitating injuries and substance abuse.

“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.

“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.”