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volved in simultaneous surgeries. The donor team carefully removed


the donor’s face, preserving nerves and blood vessels with the help of 3-D- printed cutting guides based on CT scans of the donor’s head, and then lifting off the face like a mask and plac- ing it in a preservative. Meanwhile, the surgical team took


FACING LIFE ANEW Dr. Rodriguez greets Richard Norris after surgery in 2012. Such transplants offer hope of a new life.


different because each man had vary- ing injuries: Hardison lost his eyelids, ears, lips, most of his nose and had a mass of scar tissue from his scalp to his chest; Norris had to have bones, teeth, his tongue and nerves replaced. He’d lost his sense of taste and smell. “In order to make them look normal,


you have to remove everything that was compromised,” Rodriguez says. But the basics were the same. In each case, two surgical teams were in-


out the damaged parts of the recipi- ent’s face, lifted off and attached the new face. Bones, if needed, are attached first


and secured with plates and screws. Doctors then stitch sensory nerves together and connect major blood ves- sels. Both surgeries were lengthy: Nor- ris’ took 36 hours; Hardison’s 26. The men had to wait a few days


before they could see their new faces — which look like a cross between the donor and recipient. Both felt a minor miracle had been performed. “I got my life back,” Norris says. But the surgery is only part of the


process. Patients must take large amounts of immunosuppressants and other drugs to combat rejection. Hardison has not suffered a rejec- tion, a remarkable outcome; though he likely will at some point. Norris has


PATRICK HARDISON was a volunteer firefighter in Senatobia, Miss. In September 2001, a burning building collapsed on top of him, disfiguring his face. In 2015, Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, now head of plastic surgery at NYU Langone Health, N.Y., gave him a new face in a 26-hour operation that is now the most extensive facial transplant ever performed. Below: Face donor David Rodebaugh, 26, a bike mechanic killed in a cycling accident; Hardison prior to his surgery, three months later, and now.


had three episodes of acute rejection, which involves redness or swelling and is treatable. And he will need a kidney transplant due to all the immunosup- pressants he’s had to take. There also is a risk of chronic rejec-


tion, which is irreversible and would require a second transplant, and all the psychological issues. “Even though I’ve changed their


faces, I could not remove all their emo- tional scars,” Rodriguez says. Still, he is confident both trans- plants will last for years. Rodriguez also thinks it won’t be


too long before someone does a cross- gender transplant from a female do- nor to a male recipient. The circulating testosterone in a


male recipient body would generate facial hair growth. “We’re really in the Golden Age of


transplantation,” Rodriguez says. As for Hardison and Norris, the fu-


ture looks bright. Two-and-a-half years after Nor-


ris’s surgery, GQ magazine did a story about him and included a picture of his new model-worthy face taken in a photo shoot. He lives with his girl- friend, Melanie Solis, outside New Orleans. And, Hardison, now 43, went to


Disney World with family and friends to celebrate the first anniversary of his surgery in August 2016. “It was absolutely worth it,” Norris


says confidently. In addition to a new face, the men


also regained lost senses, like taste or smell. “A few days after surgery a nurse


took me out for a walk and I could smell the freshly cut grass,” Norris says. “That was nice.”


FACE DONOR BEFORE (AUG 2014) AFTER (NOV 2015) AFTER (AUG 2016)


Steve Michaels is a veteran journalist who has written for major daily newspapers, magazines, and television. He focuses on general news, health, lifestyle, and feature articles.


MAY 2018 | NEWSMAX 59


NYU LANGON


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