EL PASO (CBSNEWS.COM) – Plastic surgeons in El Paso recently grew and transplanted a new ear on a soldier who lost her’s in an accident, but the 21-year-old had to “wear” the growing cartilage on her arm before the surgery.
The total ear reconstruction, at William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC), was the first of its kind for the U.S. Army and involved harvesting cartilage from Pvt. Shamika Burrage’s ribs to carve a new ear. The cartilage was then placed under the skin of the soldier’s forearm to allow the ear to grow.
In 2016, while Burrage rode with a family member as she returned to Fort Bliss, a tire blew out on the vehicle causing it to skid 700 feet before flipping several times and ejecting her. The young woman suffered head injuries, compression fractures in her spine, road rash and lost her left ear.
She was later told by doctors that if she hadn’t gotten medical attention within 30 minutes she would have bled to death. After months of rehab, Burrage, who was 19-years-old at the time, had to get counseling as she dealt with her emotions and the effects the accident had on her appearance.
When Burrage was initially told about the possibility of reconstruction she said, “I didn’t want to do (the reconstruction) but gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that it could be a good thing,” she said. “I was just scared at first.”
Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at WBAMC, explained that the procedure they used allowed Burrage to form new blood vessels in the cartilage and will allow her to have feeling in her ear once the rehabilitation process is complete.
Burrage has two more surgeries left, but says she’s optimistic and excited about the potential end results.