Girl's face reconstructed after raccoon attack
For Charlotte Ponce, a 14-year-old girl from Michigan, every day is a struggle to be just like any other teenager, but she and her family have no plans to give up. Charlotte is still living with the consequences of a tragic incident in her early life, which left her severely disfigured.
When she was just three months old, her parents put her to sleep in her crib. They left a baby bottle propped in her mouth, which spilled milk on her face. It's thought that this attracted the family's pet raccoon, which then ate a large part of the girl's face. Baby Charlotte lost her nose, her right ear, part of her right cheek and her upper lip.
After this incident, her birth parents lost custody of Charlotte and her brother and they were adopted by Sharon and Tim Ponce, her aunt and uncle. According to her family, her disfigurement means she often finds socializing difficult and she sometimes struggles with depression.
But she keeps on fighting. Before Charlotte's most recent operation, her doctor, plastic surgeon Dr. Koongkirt Chaiyaste said, "She's never cried. With every surgery, she's never complained." This procedure was Charlotte's first as a teenager, but Dr. Chaiyaste has been her surgeon for five years. In 2014, 11 years after the animal attack, he carried out one of her most complex procedures —cartilage from her ribs was taken and placed inside her arm to form the structure of a new ear, which later replaced the one eaten by the raccoon.
Now, at the age of 14, this latest operation means she will be able to do something she has been looking forward to for years: wear earrings! She has a collection of 50 pairs at home, waiting until she is fully recovered so she can get her ears pierced.
Thanks to the efforts of her doctors and scientific advances, Charlotte will be able to wear any earrings she wants like any other girl her age. It may be a small step, but for her it's very significant.
And she has other big ambitions on the horizon. Charlotte says she wants to be a biomedical engineer so she can help create prosthetics for people who need them. With such good intentions and her own personal experiences to draw on, we're sure it won't be long before she's making those dreams a reality. We wish her every success!