Face Transplant Recipient Meets His Donor’s Mother on Nightline

By A.J. Katz 

It has been a conflict-filled couple of weeks, news-wise, but Nightline is providing its audience with an inspirational 30 minutes of television starting tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET.

Nightline was given exclusive access to the emotional meeting of Patrick Hardison, who, in 2015, received the most extensive face transplant ever, and Nancy Millar, the mother of Dave Rodeburgh, whose face was donated to Hardison. The 26 year-old Rodeburgh died last year from the effects of a tragic head injury suffered in a bicycle accident in New York. Rodeburgh worked as a bike mechanic and was an expert BMX biker.

Hardison, a 42 year old fireman from Mississippi, lost much of his face, including his nose, lips, eyelids and even his ears in a house fire back in 2001. The face transplant was 15 years in the making.

“Thank you for being so strong and so healthy,” Millar told Hardison during their encounter. “Thank you for risking your life to do this. When I knew you were a firefighter I knew you had the strength to go through this.”

Millar met with three other recipients who received her son’s organs, which include both of his kidneys and his heart.

Nightline had been following the story for over a year, and co-anchor Juju Chang was present for the reunion.

“We wanted to be respectful of the intimacy of this meeting and yet still capture the depths of its emotion,” Chang told TVNewser. “We had a camera on Patrick and cameras with Nancy—but when they sat together, we tried to back away and let the moment unfold.”

What was the mood inside the house like? “The room was electric, and everyone felt the momentousness of it,” said Chang. “There seemed to be a bond between these two people, who had never met, but already shared. It is the perfect illustration of a grieving mother turning her loss into a blessing for others…What a legacy. It also conveys the profound gratitude that people have for a donor’s family whose gift can save lives.”

Here’s video of Hardison’s first encounter with Millar. Make sure to have a box of tissues nearby: