Army Doctors Transplant New Ear From Soldier's Arm

Physicians at William Beaumont Army Medical Center reportedly did a total ear reconstruction surgery on a soldier who lost the use of her own after a car accident

Army Pvt. Shamika Burrage, a 21-year-old MS native, lost her left ear when she was driving with her cousin to Fort Bliss, Texas, in 2016 and suddenly lost control of the vehicle, causing it to crash.

Pvt. Shamika Burrage lost her left ear in a vehicular accident. Instead of finding a donor, surgeons took cartilage from Burrage's ribs and carved it into the shape of an ear.

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.

"(The ear) will have fresh arteries fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she'll be able to feel it", said Johnson.

"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".

"As a young active-duty Soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get", Johnson said.

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Burrage was in Odessa, Texas, in 2016, driving back to Fort Bliss after a visit with her family in MS when a tire blew out.

Burrage had been driving with her pregnant cousin from MS to Fort Bliss, Texas, when the crash happened. 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. "Then I remember people walking up to us, asking if we were OK and then I blacked out".

She was later told by doctors that if she hadn't gotten medical attention within 30 minutes she would have bled to death.

Originally wary of reconstruction, Burrage at first planned on getting a prosthetic - but eventually, she decided she wanted a real ear.

'I was just scared at first but wanted to see what [the surgeon] could do'.

In order to avoid any more visible scarring, Johnson selected prelaminated forearm free flap, which involved placing the autologous cartilage into the patient's forearm to allow for neovascularization, or the formation of new blood vessels. When Burrage was told about the reconstruction, she was shocked and initially resistant to go through the procedure. Now known as the Vacanti Mouse, the critter was part of research studying how feasible it was to grow human ears made of cartilage.

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Burrage was alive but deeply shaken by the accident.

Meanwhile, the plastic surgery team expanded a segment of skin on Burrage's forearm to make room for the precious cargo she would soon carry there.

Plastic surgeons in El Paso recently grew and transplanted a new ear on a soldier who lost her's in an accident, but the 21-year-old had to "wear" the growing cartilage on her arm before the surgery.

Although Burrage's hearing might be functioning again, her recovery isn't done yet.

Epidermis from Burrage's forearm will be used to cover scar tissue in the area around her left jawline, the statement said.

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