Army doctors were able to give a soldier a new ear by first growing the organ in her forearm, a unique and remarkable procedure that was the first of its kind for the military branch.
The revolutionary surgery, which was in the making for over a year, will provide the female soldier with renewed confidence after losing her ear in a vehicular accident.
Soldier Loses Ear In Vehicular Accident
In 2016, 21-year-old Pvt. Shamika Burrage was returning to Fort Bliss, Texas after visiting her family in Mississippi. She was driving, while her eight-months-pregnant cousin was in the passenger seat.
Suddenly, the front tire blew, sending the car off road. Burrage remembered looking at her cousin and back at the road while hitting the brakes, until the first flip. The vehicle skidded over a distance of 700 feet before flipping numerous times and sending Burrage flying. While her cousin suffered only minor injuries, Burrage suffered compression fractures in her spine, head injuries, road rash, and the complete loss of her left ear.
After rehabilitation over several months, Burrage sought counseling to help her deal with the trauma of the accident, along with its effects on her appearance. The soldier said that she did not feel comfortable with the way she looked, so she was referred to plastic surgery.
Army Doctors Use Ear Grown On Arm In Transplant Surgery
Surgeons at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center crafted Burrage's new ear using cartilage taken from her rib cage. The cartilage was shaped into an ear, and then inserted under the skin on the soldier's arm so that it will develop blood vessels.
"(The ear) will have fresh arteries, fresh veins, and even a fresh nerve so she'll be able to feel it," said Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief of WBAMC's Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery department. Extra skin from her forearm attached to the grown ear will also be used to cover the scar tissue in Burrage's jawline.
Burrage has two surgeries left to complete the procedure, and she could not be more excited about it. The goal, according to Johnson, is that in five years, nobody will notice that Burrage has a new ear that was grown in her arm.
"It's been a long process for everything, but I'm back," Burrage said.