Pvt. Shamika Burrage lost her entire left ear during a car accident on her way to visit family in Texas, says a report from the U.S. Army. The soldier needed counseling to deal with her emotions after the accident, including dealing with discontentment about the way she looked.
At the urging of her counselor, Burrage looked into plastic surgery for the missing ear. That’s when she found surgeons at William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC) who had a radical idea.
The medical team wanted to use cartilage from Burrage’s ribs to form a new, non-artificial ear. The ear would then need to “grow” under the skin of the soldier’s arm before transplanting could take place.
According to Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, he saw that Burrage had “her whole life ahead of her.” Young soldiers like her deserve the best option they can get, Johnson stated in the U.S. Army report.
Burrage had lost the use of her ear when her tire blew out while traveling with her cousin. Burrage then hit the brakes before the vehicle skidded and rolled several times.
The soldier suffered head and spinal injuries along with losing her left ear because of the accident. However, her cousin, who was eight months pregnant at the time, only incurred minor injuries.
The bizarre idea of growing a new ear came after several months of recovery and medical attention. Johnson said the new ear would even have blood vessels and nerves in it. The soldier would be able to hear and feel it once attached.
At first, Burrage didn’t want to do reconstructive surgery. But after a while, she reminded herself that surgery could be “a good thing.” According to the report, Burrage didn’t lose any hearing in her ear but needed surgery to open the canal back up.
Surgeons from WBAMC successfully transplanted their homegrown ear in 2018, leaving Burrage “optimistic and excited” about the final result.