Two years ago, Army Pvt. Shamika Burrage almost died when she was ejected from her car during a crash in Texas. Afterward, when she woke up in the hospital, she wasn’t whole. Her entire left ear was gone.
But the now-21-year-old is on the path to recovery. And due to a procedure hailed as the “first of its kind” in the Army, an ear was reconstructed and “grown” under the skin of her right forearm, according to the Army.
No prosthetics were needed. Instead, plastic surgeons used the soldier’s own cartilage.
The ear was later attached to Burrage’s head by surgeons at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso. The Army said Burrage recovered her hearing and that the operation was a success, according to a statement on Monday.
The total ear reconstruction involved doctors carving a new ear out of cartilage harvested from Burrage’s ribs, the statement said. The ear was then placed under her forearm skin to let it grow.
The procedure is one of the most complicated ear constructions in the U.S., according to an ABC News report, and allows for the formation of new blood vessels in the cartilage. This means Burrage will also have feeling in her new ear once rehabilitation is complete, the Army’s statement said.
“The whole goal is by the time she’s done with all this, it looks good, it’s sensate, and in five years if somebody doesn’t know her they won’t notice,” Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, the chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the medical center was quoted as saying in the statement.
“As a young active-duty Soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get,” he said.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Allyson Chiu