When Shamika Burrage survived a devastating car accident two years ago, she did not get away completely unscathed. The 21-year-old, who is private in the US Army, lost her left ear in the accident, but thanks to an innovative work by Army Plastic Surgeons, she brings it back. It's a premiere for army doctors and a remarkable result for the young soldier.
The unbelievable thing about all this is that the ear is not a prosthesis. It consists of living tissue and has grown on Burrage's body. Surgeons used cartilage from one of Burrage's own ribs to create the shape of the ear and then implanted it under the skin of their forearm. The skin was allowed to grow around the ear for several months to form new blood vessels and feel in the ear after planting in the head.
Reconstruction requires multiple interventions, but once the ordeal is over and the new ear has a chance to heal in place, it will look and feel just like the real deal. The skin is sensitized by fresh nerves, and blood circulates just like the original organ.
In a post on the US Army blog, Burrage reveals that she originally did not want the operation and originally planned it (1
"He" is Lieutenant Colonel Owen Johnson III, Head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at William Beaumont's Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas
"The whole goal is, when she's done with it, it looks great, it's sensation, and in five years, if someone does it they do not know it, "Johnson says about the operation. "As a young active soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get."