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10 May 2018, 08:46 | Melissa Porter
Surgeons grow soldier's new ear in her FOREARM
After Pvt. Shamika Burrage, a supply clerk with 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, was in a vehicle wreck two years ago, she suffered road rash, a head injury, compression fractures in her spine, and lost her ear. After crafting the ear out of Burrage's cartilage, surgeons at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, placed it under the skin of her forearm so it could "grow" and develop blood vessels in a process known as neovascularization.
The first time an operation of this kind was attempted was in 2012, when a woman who had lost her ear to cancer regrew another under the skin of her forearm. While her cousin managed to escape with only minor wounds, Burrage suffered head injuries as well as compression fractures in the spine.
Burrage was alive but deeply shaken by the accident.
That's after Burrage, 21, got to watch her new left ear grow - on her right arm.
"I was coming back from leave and we were around Odessa, Texas", said Burrage, who was traveling with her cousin.
Doctors later told her that if she had not received medical attention in 30 minutes, she would have bled to death.
An ear was grown in a soldier's arm and eventually successfully transplanted.
"The whole goal is by the time she's done with all this, it looks good, it's sensate, and in five years if somebody doesn't know her they won't notice", Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, the chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the medical center was quoted as saying in the statement.
"(The ear) will have fresh arteries fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she'll be able to feel it", Johnson said on the U.S. Army's website.
And Johnson said it just made sense to try it, since Burrage is so young and shouldn't have to deal with an artificial ear for the rest of her life.
With only two more surgeries left, Burrage said she's feeling more optimistic and excited.
Burrage - a supply clerk with 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division - initially was going to wear a prosthetic to avoid more scarring, but decided she wanted her ear back at all costs.
'I was just scared at first but wanted to see what [the surgeon] could do'.
The ear will be attached to the left side of her face after it has finished growing and Burrage will be able to feel the appendage too.
Burrage didn't lose any hearing during the procedure, according to the statement, and if all goes well during rehabilitation, she'll also have feeling in her reconstructed ear.
Burrage said that she had resigned herself to living with a prosthetic ear, but did not like how it looked. She is reportedly slated to undergo two more surgeries.
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