After losing her left ear in a 2016 car crash, Army Pvt. Shamika Burrage knew she wanted a “real” replacement ear and not some prosthetic knockoff.
So what did she do? Grow the ear herself… with a little help from Army doctors!
According to an Army statement, doctors were able to grow an ear under the soldier’s forearm and successfully transplant it onto her head. Science!
To perform the total ear reconstruction procedure, which had never been done before in the Army, doctors first had to harvest cartilage from the soldier’s ribs and carve it into a new ear.
The ear was then placed under the skin of her forearm, where it was allowed to grow. Plastic surgeons at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas then successfully performed the transplant.
Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the medical center, said doctors hope that Burrage’s new ear won’t be visibly different than the other one within five years. He explained in a statement:
“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. As a young active-duty Soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get.”
But the 21-year-old’s new ear isn’t fully ready to go just yet — Johnson added that the new ear will eventually “have fresh arteries fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she’ll be able to feel it.”
The soldier lost her ear after the front tire of her car blew out in 2016 while she and a cousin were returning to Texas on the way back from visiting family in Mississippi. She recalled in a statement:
“We were driving and my front tire blew, which sent the car off road and I hit the brake. I remember looking at my cousin who was in the passenger seat, I looked back at the road as I hit the brakes. I just remember the first flip and that was it.”
Burrage’s vehicle skidded 700 feet and flipped over multiple times. The then-19-year-old was ejected from the car and suffered multiple injuries. Her cousin was not seriously injured.
Unhappy with her earless appearance, however, the soldier was encouraged to look into plastic surgery months into her rehabilitation process. Though she was hesitant to undergo a full reconstruction, Burrage knew she “wanted a real ear” and not a prosthetic one.
She still has two more surgeries to go before reconstruction is complete, but the future is definitely looking — and sounding — much brighter for the solider thanks to this cutting edge surgery![Image via U.S. Army.]