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A soldier lost her ear in a car crash — so doctors grew a new one inside her arm

New ear grown in soldier’s arm
Doctors in the U.S. Army have managed to regrow a soldier’s ear inside her arm. As Ross Lord reports, the doctors used cartilage from her rib to achieve the medical marvel.

Plastic surgeons in the U.S. have successfully transplanted a new ear on a soldier who lost her left ear in a 2016 car crash.

The doctors at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, successfully performed the army’s first ear reconstruction and transplant, a statement from the armed service branch released on Monday said.

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The surgeons built a new ear from the patient’s harvested rib cage cartilage, then placed it under the skin of her forearm.

It then grew on her forearm for a few months.

“I didn’t feel comfortable with the way I looked so the provider referred me to plastic surgery,” Pte. Shamika Burrage said in the statement. “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. I was going to go with the prosthetic, to avoid more scarring but I wanted a real ear.”

In 2016, Burrage was driving from Mississippi to Fort Bliss, Texas, when her front tire blew out. Her car skidded and flipped several times, according to the army’s statement. Burrage and her cousin, who was also in the car, were ejected from the car.

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Burrage suffered head injuries, compression fractures in the spine and the lost her left ear.

“I was on the ground, I just looked up and [her cousin] was right there. Then I remember people walking up to us, asking if we were OK and then I blacked out,” Burrage said in a statement.

Doctors later told her that if she hadn’t received medical attention after 30 more minutes, she would have bled to death.

After months of rehabilitation, Burrage decided to get plastic surgery for her ear.

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“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, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, said in the statement.

“As a young active-duty soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get.”

Burrarge still has to undergo two more surgeries (to cover up scar tissue) but said she remains excited to finish the reconstruction.