U.S. Army surgeons have grown a new ear on a female soldier’s forearm in an extraordinary, first-of-its kind procedure.
It is being grown to eventually replace Pvt. Shamika Burrage’s missing left ear, which she lost in a single-vehicle car crash in 2016.
The plastic surgery team at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, first removed cartilage from the soldier’s ribs and used it to shape a new ear.
Once formed, the membrane was the surgically inserted under the skin of the forearm so that it could grow into a fully-formed organ.
Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief of the hospital’s plastic and reconstructive surgery unit, said:
“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 … [The ear] will have fresh arteries fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she’ll be able to feel it.”
Burrage — a supply clerk with 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division — was severely injured in 2016 when her tire blew out and the car repeatedly flipped.
“I was coming back from leave and … my front tire blew, which sent the car off road and I hit the brake. I remember looking at my cousin who was in the passenger seat, I looked back at the road as I hit the brakes. I just remember the first flip and that was it,” said Burrage, who was ejected from the car.
She suffered head and spine injuries and the total loss of her left ear. After months of rehabilitation, Burrage was devastated by her appearance and elected to go for the pioneering surgery.
“It’s been a long process for everything, but I’m back,” said Burrage, who has two more surgeries left.
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