Medical science is pretty cool.
It’s always changing and evolving, and you never know what scientists will come up with next. They can grow organs outside the body, and now they can grow body parts on the body. One soldier recently needed reconstructive surgery to replace her ear. It had been ripped off in a car accident.
She and her cousin has been traveling together when the front tire had a blowout and the car flipped.
Private Shamika Burrage was thrown from the vehicle and almost died from her injuries. Her cousin was eight months pregnant at the time but only suffered minor injuries. Burrage talked about the accident, saying:
“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 okay and then I blacked out.”
When she woke up, she was in the emergency room and her entire left ear was gone.
They told her they would have to make her a new ear. She really didn’t want to undergo any more surgeries and considered getting a prosthesis, because she thought it would be easier.
Doctors explained that they could help her grow a new ear that would look and feel normal. She decided to give it a try. They took a piece of cartilage from her rib and carved it into the shape of an ear. Then, they opened up a flat of skin on her forearm and slipped the cartilage inside. Blood vessels will grow on top of the ear and help the transplant be more successful.
Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at William Beaumont, explained how the process works, saying:
“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. […] As a young active-duty soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get. [The ear] will have fresh arteries, fresh veins, and even a fresh nerve so she’ll be able to feel it. The skin flap from her forearm will also cover some of the scar tissue around Burrage’s jawline and ear from the accident.”
After the surgery, Burrage regained hearing in her ear.
Although the ear surgery was designed to fix the cosmetic aspect of the ear, it helped it function properly, too.
Although this may sound like an extreme way to grow body parts, it’s not all that new. Medical scientists have been growing body parts for a while. Another cosmetic surgery doctor created a nose for a man and grew it on his forehead. Dr. Cangello explained the process, saying:
“We typically take the cartilage from the rib, and we put it right where the nose structure would already be, and we bring the skin flap over it and cover it. Whenever we perform a reconstruction, there are two things in mind: ‘It’s not just form, but it’s also function.’”
Strangely, the man wasn’t happy with his new nose.
It seemed much larger than his real nose and didn’t look like it was right for him. Doctors assured him that the nose would get smaller after he recovered from surgery and that it was only swollen. He eventually agreed to give it a try.
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Losing a body part can be devastating, and it’s great that doctors are always coming up with new ways to replace them, so they look and function naturally.
While it may seem strange to see an ear growing on a forearm or a nose growing on a head, if it can help the people who need the new parts live a normal life, it’s worth it. This is just the beginning for medical science. There is a still a lot to learn and experiment with and things will only get better. Before long, people will be growing all kinds of body parts.
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