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.