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Doctors Rebuild Woman’s Ear, Grow It Inside Her Forearm

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(credit: John Hopkins)

(credit: John Hopkins)

CBS Houston (con't)

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CBS NEW YORK – Doctors have reconstructed an ear for a woman who lost part of one to skin cancer.

Using cartilage from between Sherrie Walter’s ribs, doctors at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University Hospital were able to rebuild a functioning ear.

This was the first time doctors have ever built a functioning ear from a patient’s own tissue.

“I feel like an experiment,” Walter said.

Walter’s doctors implanted the replacement ear into her forearm for four months, in order to allow the ear to grow skin before re-attaching it to her head, CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson reported.

“We started making jokes just to try to get used to it and I would be like ‘Can you hear me? Can you hear me?'” Walter said, waving her arm.

Doctors have since removed the replacement ear from Walter’s arm and placed it on the left side of her face.

“I thought of this exact strategy many years before and really was just looking for the right patient to try it on,” said Walter’s surgeon, Dr. Patrick Byrne. “In my opinion, now it’s just a matter of time. As the swelling goes down and it heals I believe she will have a normal-looking ear.”

The rebuilt ear is still being shaped, but Walter has had hearing returned to that ear. A surgery this week added shape and detail to Walter’s new ear, Johnson reported.

“It just didn’t seem like anything we’d ever heard of. It’s just been great to kind of come to fruition,” Walter’s husband, Damien, said.

Walter said she may not have ever lost part of her ear if her skin cancer was diagnosed sooner. She urged anyone who notices a mark anywhere on their body to get it checked by a doctor immediately.

“If you are not sure about something, get it checked because that’s what I didn’t do,” Walter said.

Doctors said there is absolutely no risk Walter’s body will reject the ear since all the material used to make it was her own.

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