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Girl Mauled by Raccoon Getting New Ear – That She Grew Herself

Clinging to life as an infant after a raccoon chewed off her ear, nose and much of her face, Charlotte Ponce’s long ordeal – surgery after surgery after countless surgery – is almost over.

Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyasate of Beaumont Hospital chats with Charlotte Ponce and her mother, Sharon, after cartilage was removed from her rib in April. (Photo: Beaumont Hospital)
Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyasate of Beaumont Hospital chats with Charlotte Ponce and her mother, Sharon, after cartilage was removed from her rib in April. (Photo: Beaumont Hospital)

Charlotte Ponce‘s new ear is ready.

The 12-year-old Spring Lake, MI, girl has been been “baking” it in a sense, under an incision surgeons at Royal Oak’s Beaumont Hospital made in one of her forearms in April.

Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyasate, who carved the ear-shaped structure from cartilage taken from her rib, will attach it to the side of her face Thursday, The Detroit News reports.

By the time she went through that surgery three months ago, the plucky pre-teen was already a veteran in Beaumont’s operating rooms. Mauled and disfigured by a pet raccoon when she was a baby, Charlotte’s long ordeal is almost over.

Update:

It started three months after she was born.

By the time she was discovered clinging to life in her crib, the pet raccon had eaten away her nose, right ear, part of her lips and cheekbones, according to the Healing Charlotte blog.

The blog was created by her adoptive parents, her great aunt and uncle, who took custody of Charlotte and her brother after their birth parents were investigated by child protection authorities.

Related:

Charlotte’s first surgery was in August 2012 after Sharon Ponce learned of Chaiyasate’s work in reconstructive surgery, including one in Honduras to rebuild a boy’s nose.

Normally shy, Charlotte warmed to Chaiyasate right away, her mother, Sharon Ponce, told the Detroit Free Press.

“He said ‘I can build you a nose.’ And we said ‘What about an ear?’ He said ‘I can build you an ear,’” Charlotte Ponce told the newspaper, adding the changes in her appearance have been “absolutely awesome.”.

Thursday’s is the last of a series of major surgeries – Sharon Ponce and her husband, Tim, say they’ve lost track of how many there have been – to rebuild her nose, repair her lip and cheek, and in essence give her a new face to repair the damage.

At least one major procedure awaits – laser treatments and more surgeries to repair scars when she is 16 or so, Chaiyasate told MLive last spring.

The surgery could take up to eight hours and is a cosmetic procedure. She hears through a hole in the side of her head

The skin has molded around the cartilage. “You can definitely see the shape of an ear there,” Sharon Ponce told the Free Press.

The new ear will replace a prosthetic ear attached to Charlotte’s skull in 2009, MLive reports. It was uncomfortable and became infected.

Chaiyasate is confident the surgery, though rare, will work with few complications.

What makes Thursday’s procedure different than other ear reconstructions is that both the skin and the framework of the ear had to be rebuilt because the scar tissue from the raccoon attack is too thick to support an ear on its own, Chaiyasate told the Detroit Free Press.

The surgery involves some plumbing “so the new ear will stay alive,” he said, explaining he will connect vessels to carry oxygen and blood to the new ear. 

"It’s all about the circulation,” he said.

Charlotte will be in the hospital for about a month. She’s looking forward to the day she can wear a “high pony tail,” return to her gymnastic classes and sport new earrings that have been donated by some of Chaiyasate’s other patients after they heard of Charlotte’s story.

She has come a long way since that day in 2002 when, still on a feeding tube, she was released from the hospital and would wake up crying in the night, as if she was reliving the attack, Sharon Ponce told MLive in 2012, before the first surgery.

“She’s my hero,” her mother said at the time. “We just love her – that’s all. Like anybody who has adopted a child, they’re yours.”

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