Saving Face: How One Pioneering Surgeon is Pushing the Limits of Facial Transplants

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His reconstructed faces have tongues that taste and eyelids that blink. But will they withstand the test of time? [Dec. 9, 2016]

There have been 38 facial transplants worldwide to date. Not all have survived. (Elnur / iStock)

On September 5, 2001, Patrick Hardison’s face caught fire.

The 27-year-old volunteer fireman had climbed into a mobile home through a burning window, after hearing a man scream that his wife might be trapped inside. It turned out the man’s wife wasn’t inside at all; she was fishing in a stream down the road. Hardison wasn’t so lucky. Once he made it inside, the ceiling collapsed. Hardison tore off his fireman’s mask, only to feel it melting in his hands. By the time he was pulled from the window and paramedics had pushed an IV into his arm, his fellow firefighters couldn’t recognize him. His face had melted and turned to char.

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