BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Johns Hopkins doctors are once again making history–this time by using a woman’s own tissue to build her a new ear.
Derek Valcourt explains with doctors’ help, her own body has replaced what an aggressive form of cancer took away.
You don’t have to tell Sherrie Walters her story sounds like science fiction.
“No, I feel like an experiment,” Walters said.
The discovery of a rapidly-spreading basal cell cancer in her ear in 2008 required the removal of part of her ear, part of her skull and her left ear canal. But now, in a groundbreaking and complicated set of surgeries, Johns Hopkins doctors have attached a new ear made from Walters’ own tissue.
“I thought of this exact strategy many years before and really was looking for the right patient to try it on,” said renowned plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Patrick Byrne.
Byrne used cartilage from Walters’ ribs to stitch together a new ear matching her right ear. He then implanted it under the skin of her forearm, where it grew for months.
“We started making jokes just to try to get used to it and I was like, `Can you hear me? Can you hear me?’ said Sherrie’s husband, Damien.
Byrne later surgically attached the ear and its blood vessels. Then surgery Tuesday added shape and detail to the ear.
It’s been an emotional ride for Sherrie and her husband.
“It just didn’t seem like anything we’d ever heard of so to see the progression and to see how everything has come out has been just great to kind of come to fruition,” said Walters.
“In my opinion, how it’s just a matter of time as the swelling goes down and it heals, I believe she will have a normal looking ear,” said Byrne.
Though recovery isn’t over, Sherrie considers herself lucky and hopes others learn from her story.
“And it’s a cliche but use the sunscreen and if you are not sure about something, get it checked because that’s what I didn’t do,” she said.
She still has two more minor surgeries to go. If all continues to go well, her doctor hopes the newly constructed ear will last for decades.
She’s able to hear from her left side thanks to a special hearing aid.