A young soldier in Texas has received the Army's first total ear transplant.
Plastic surgeons at William Beaumont Army Medical Center successfully transplanted the new ear after Pvt. Shamika Burrage lost her left ear in a car accident in 2016.
The procedure involved harvesting cartilage from the Burrage's ribs to carve a new ear out of the cartilage, according to Army.mil. It was then placed under the skin of her forearm to allow the ear to grow.
Burrage was returning to Fort Bliss, Texas, after visiting family in Mississippi when a tire blowout led to the accident that changed her life.
"I was coming back from leave and we were around Odessa, Texas," Burrage told Army.mil. "We were driving and my front tire blew, which sent the car off road and I hit the brake. 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."
Burrage was in the car with her cousin, who was eight months pregnant at the time. While Burrage was ejected and lost her ear, her cousin managed to walk away with only minor injuries.
"I was on the ground, I just looked up and [my cousin] was right there. Then I remember people walking up to us, asking if we were OK and then I blacked out," Burrage said.
Burrage woke up in the hospital with her eat missing. Uncomfortable with the way she looked, she was referred to a plastic surgeon.
After hearing about the complex procedure, Burrage said she was initially hesitant.
"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," she said.
Amazingly, Burrage's ear will have its own blood supply and she will even have sensation.
"[The ear] will have fresh arteries, fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she'll be able to feel it," said Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at WBAMC.
Despite her initial hesitance and the multiple surgeries she'll eventually have to endure, Burrage said she's happy with her decision.
"It's been a long process for everything, but I'm back," she said.