Physicians at an Army medical facility in Texas were able to surgically give a soldier a brand new ear that was "grown" in her arm after she lost the use of her own following a car accident, according to a report Monday.
Surgeons at William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC) were able to craft the new ear for Pvt. Shamika Burrage, 21, by using cartilage from her rib cage, which was inserted beneath the skin on her arm in order to develop new blood vessels in a process called neovascularization, according to an article by the U.S. Army detailing the total ear reconstruction.
"(The ear) will have fresh arteries fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she'll be able to feel it," Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at WBAMC said.
Burrage said in the report that she "didn't lose any hearing and (Johnson) opened the canal back up," which had closed following the car accident.
The surgery was reportedly a first for the military branch and Johnson said the team is hopeful that by the time the entire process is completed, it'll look and act like an ear that Burrage was born with. She is reportedly slated to undergo two more surgeries.
"As a young active-duty Soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get," Johnson said.
The crash that affected Burrage's ear occurred in 2016 while she was returning from leave and en route to Fort Bliss, Texas, the report said. A blown-out tire reportedly caused the car to veer off the road and tumble a number of times before she was thrown from the vehicle. Her pregnant cousin was also in the car, however she was reportedly not significantly injured.
But the then-19-year-old soldier injured her head and spine, got road rash and lost all use of her left ear, according to the report.
"I was on the ground, I just looked up and (her cousin) was right there," Burrage said. "Then I remember people walking up to us, asking if we were okay and then I blacked out." The next thing she said she remembered was regaining consciousness in the hospital.
After the accident, Burrage started going to a counselor, the report said.
"I didn't feel comfortable with the way I looked so the provider referred me to plastic surgery," Burrage said.
While the soldier wasn't keen on the surgery at first, she ultimately changed her mind, the report said.
"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," Burrage said. "I was going to go with the prosthetic, to avoid more scarring but I wanted a real ear. I was just scared at first but wanted to see what he could do."
But since her surgery, Burrage said that she's looking forward to what's to come.
"It's been a long process for everything, but I'm back," Burrage said.