Ear Transplant Grown in Arm of Soldier Recipient

Army Private Shamika Burrage nearly died two years ago upon her ejection from her car during a crash in Texas. Once she woke up in the hospital, she realized her left ear was gone.

Now 21 years old, she is on the road to recovery. Burrage is now part of a procedure that is the first of its kind for the Army. A reconstructed ear was placed and grown on her right forearm just under the skin.

Instead of prosthetics, plastic surgeons used Burrage’s cartilage from her ribs.

Later at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, surgeons attached the ear to the soldier’s head. According to the Army, she recovered her hearing, and the operation was a success.

Recovery After Losing and Ear and Other Injuries

As one of the most complex ear constructions in the States, it allows new blood vessels to form in the cartilage. Because of this, once rehabilitation is complete, Burrage can have feeling in the ear.
The chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III says the goal is to make it work normally. If someone doesn’t know about it in five years, they won’t be able to notice.

Burrage received more injuries than just the loss of her ear in the 2016 car accident. Her pregnant cousin was with her at the time and thankfully just escaped with minor wounds. Along with a missing ear, Burrage suffered compression fractures in her spine as well as head injuries.

Burrage says she remembers blacking out after hearing others asking if she was ok. Doctors say if she had received help only a half hour after she did, the soldier would have bled to death.

Once stabilized in the hospital, Doctors gave Burrage the option of plastic surgery. The thought of reconstruction scared her at first as she wanted to avoid more scarring, but she wanted to know her options. And she wanted a real ear.

Even with both ears, Burrage’s recovery is still not over. The plan is to use epidermis from her forearm to cover her scar tissue around her left jawline.

Only two more surgeries remain for the soldier. She remains optimistic saying the process was long, but she’s glad that she is whole once more.