Army Hospital Surgery Done with Ear 'Grown' in Soldier's Arm

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A young soldier received a new ear after she lost one during a vehicle crash two years ago - after surgeons grew the organ beneath the skin on her forearm, US Army officials said.

In a rare and remarkable procedure, Army surgeons at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, have recreated an ear for Burrage out of cartilage, and tucked it into her arm to finish growing.

But since her surgery, Burrage has been confident and looking forward to what's to come.

"I didn't want to do [the reconstruction] but gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that it could be a good thing".

Private Shamika Burrage, 21, from MS, lost her ear in 2016 when a tire blew out in a auto she was traveling in, causing the vehicle to veer off the road and flip several times. The cousin who was in the auto with her suffered only minor injuries, but Burrage had head injuries, spine fractures, road rash and lost her left ear.

Doctors later told her that if medical treatment had been delayed for 30 more 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.

She has two surgeries left, and is excited to finally be healthy again, "It's been a long process for everything, but I'm back", she said to ABC.

Once Burrage chose to proceed with the ear transplant, the long process began.

The total ear reconstruction involved doctors carving a new ear out of cartilage harvested from Burrage's ribs, the statement said. The cartilage was then placed under the skin of the soldier's forearm to allow the ear to grow. After it was grown, they removed it from her forearm and attached it.

Johnson said, "The whole goal is by the time she's done with all this, it looks good, it (has feeling), and in five years if somebody doesn't know her they won't notice". The operation is the first of its kind for the Army, though the Washington Post notes that similar procedures have been undertaken elsewhere at least twice. In 2012, a cancer patient who had to have her ear removed, Sherrie Walter, went through a 16-hour procedure to have her ear, neck glands, lymph nodes tissue and part of her skull removed. This process is called neovascularization, an article by the U.S. Army stated, detailing the total ear reconstruction.

As for Burrage, she has two more surgeries left and says she is feeling optimistic about her future. Her entire left ear was gone.

"I didn't lose any hearing and (Johnson) opened the canal back up", said Burrage, whose left ear canal had closed up due to the severity of the trauma.

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