CNN

A soldier lost her ear in a car accident. So the doctors grew her a new one — in her forearm

May 10, 2018, 3:35 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:01 pm
Shamika Burrage survived a near-fatal car accident two years ago, but not without losing something ...
Shamika Burrage survived a near-fatal car accident two years ago, but not without losing something pretty important: her left ear. Now, thanks to a novel procedure performed at an Army medical center in Texas, Burrage is getting that ear back in a most unusual way. Plastic surgeons harvested cartilage from Burrage's ribs to create a new ear and then grew it under the skin of her forearm.

(CNN) – Shamika Burrage survived a near-fatal car accident two years ago, but not without losing something pretty important: her left ear.

Now, thanks to a novel procedure performed at an Army medical center in Texas, Burrage is getting that ear back in a most unusual way.

Plastic surgeons harvested cartilage from Burrage’s ribs to create a new ear and then grew it under the skin of her forearm. Then the doctors at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso successfully transplanted the ear from her arm to her head.

The technique — a first time in the Army — is called prelaminated forearm free flap, said Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at William Beaumont Army Medical Center.

Some of the big advantages of it is that it reduced the chance of more scarring around Burrage’s ear. Also, growing the ear under the skin of her forearm allows new blood vessels to form.

“(The ear) will have fresh arteries, fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she’ll be able to feel it,” Johnson said on the US Army’s website.

Burrage, a 21-year-old private, still has to endure two more surgeries, but she’s feeling more optimistic about the future than ever in the years since her accident.

“It’s been a long process for everything, but I’m back,” said Burrage.

The accident

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

“We were driving and my front tire blew, which sent the car off road and I hit the brake,” she said. “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.”

Her car slid about 700 feet, then flipped several times before Burrage was ejected. The cousin who was in the car with her suffered only minor injuries, but Burrage had head injuries, spine fractures, road rash and lost her left ear.

“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 OK and then I blacked out.”

Doctors later told Burrage she would have bled to death if 30 more minutes had passed before she got medical attention.

The surgery

Burrage had resigned herself to living a life with a prosthetic ear, but she didn’t like the way it looked. So she sought out other options through plastic surgery.

What Johnson and the other surgeons at the medical center proposed — growing an ear in her forearm and then transplanting it — shocked her.

“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,” said Burrage. “I was just scared at first but wanted to see what he could do.”

And Johnson said it just made sense to try it, since Burrage is so young and shouldn’t have to deal with an artificial ear for the rest of her life.

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

(2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.)

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

CNN

Six-year-old Mason Stonehouse was playing on his dad’s phone before bedtime and spent about $1,00...
CNN

Michigan six-year-old orders $1,000 worth of food on Grubhub

A six-year-old as playing on his dad's phone before bedtime and spent about $1,000 on Grubhub orders.
2 days ago
A man accused of kidnapping and torturing a woman in southwest Oregon knew his victim before the at...
Lucy Kafanov, Elizabeth Wolfe and Jeremy Harlan

Man accused of severely beating, kidnapping Oregon woman knew his victim, police say

A man accused of kidnapping and torturing a woman in southwest Oregon knew his victim before the attack, police tell CNN, as the week-long search for the suspect continues.
3 days ago
Artic weather leads to canceled flights...
Lilit Marcus, CNN

More than 1,800 flights canceled Tuesday, hundreds more on Wednesday

More than 1,800 flights were canceled and many more were delayed on Tuesday as a brutal ice storm continued to hit parts of the South and central United States, bringing a second day of transport problems.
3 days ago
This photo provided by the Dallas Zoo shows an emperor tamarins that lives at the zoo. Two monkeys ...
Andi Babineau and Elizabeth Wolfe

After monkeys stolen and animals enclosures cut open, Dallas Zoo releases photo of suspect

For the fourth time this month, the Dallas Zoo finds tampering with their animals and their enclosures, including one dead bird.
3 days ago
Showy highway in Texas...
Aya Elamroussi and Dakin Andone, CNN

Millions across the South and central US brace for ice storm

A winter storm bringing the triple threat of ice, sleet and snow Tuesday to parts of the South and central US has prompted officials to close roads and schools as they urge people to avoid traveling in dangerous conditions.
3 days ago
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 07:  A general view of the skyline of downtown Dallas, Texas as the American Airl...
KELSY MITTAUER

Arrest made in sex trafficking of teen girl who disappeared at Mavs game

Nine months after a Texas girl was sex trafficked after disappearing from a Mavericks game, an arrest has been made.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
A soldier lost her ear in a car accident. So the doctors grew her a new one — in her forearm