For Pvt. Shamika Burrage, losing an ear due to a single-vehicle accident was emotionally devastating. Thankfully, army doctors had an answer for her that was going to be leagues better than an artificial ear. In one of the more complex ear reconstruction procedures available, doctors took cartilage from her ribs and then carved an ear out of it. The new “ear” was then put under her forearm, and then they let it “grow.” This process allowed new blood vessels to form.
The result is an ear with veins and a nerve so that Burrage can touch it and feel it like a regular ear. After the accident, her ear canal had closed up, but doctors were able to open them back up, reported the U.S. Army website.
Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, the chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at William Beaumont Army Medical Center where the procedure was done, explained the reason why the doctors were able to complete this procedure.
“The whole field of plastic surgery has its roots in battlefield trauma…Every major advance in plastic surgery has happened with war. This was trauma related.”
The accident took place in 2016 when Burrage was driving back from leave with her cousin when a front tire blew out. This caused the car to run off the road and flip. Burrage was ejected from the car. Her cousin only had minor injuries, while Burrage had “head injuries, compression fractures in the spine, road rash and the total loss of her left ear.”
Thankfully, Burrage survived the accident but, as a young 19-year-old woman, suffered emotional hardships due to her new appearance. So someone suggested she get some plastic surgery, and when she first heard about the possible new procedure, she didn’t know what to think of it at first, according to the Washington Post.
After a series of surgeries, with two more to go, Burrage’s hearing has been restored and the procedure has been deemed a success. Doctors believe that in about five years, her new ear will be indistinguishable from a regular ear.
There are two other known cases when an ear was “grown” inside a forearm. The first was a woman who lost her ear due to disease but grew a new one in her arm. Another time, Chinese doctors tried to duplicate the procedure for a man who lost an ear in a car accident.