Harriet Sanders, a prep student at St Elizabeth’s School, Tarragindi, recently underwent ear reconstruction surgery – a procedure that will change her life forever.
Harriet, 4, was born without fully formed ears because of bilateral microtia and atresia. According to the Ear Community, microtia is a congenital deformity wherein the ear does not fully develop during the first trimester of pregnancy whilst atresia refers to the absence or closure of the external auditory ear canal.
Harriet’s mother, Anna Sanders said that, through the years, they helped treat the little girl’s hearing loss through bone-conducted hearing aids. Anna described her daughter as a very bright, sassy, and funny little girl.
But through a fundraising campaign led by local charity group ‘Hear and Say’, Harriet has been fitted with bilateral Cochlear BAHA 5 bone conduction hearing aids, a non-surgical hearing solution designed for children. It’s a headband-mounted hearing aid which conducts sound through the bone in Harriet’s forehead.
The reconstructive surgery involves two separate 10-12 hour surgeries by a specialist reconstructive surgeon using state of the art 3D printed ear technology.
Dr Joe Dusseldorp, a reconstructive plastic surgeon based in Sydney, used modern technology to create a 3D print a scaffold of an ear using before connecting it to Harriet’s head.
The scaffold is created with tiny holes that will help Harriet’s tissue to grow into it; then from above her ear and inner thigh, it will be covered with skin grafts so it will look like a normal ear. The second part of Harriet’s surgery, which will be for her other ear, is scheduled in 2022.
Before this surgery was introduced in Australia, children with microtia and atresia, even had to go to the United States for the reconstruction surgery where it’s more expensive to have it done.
“We strongly believe that this will be life changing surgery for Harriet. It will mean that she can go through life with no physical deformity, giving her the confidence and strength she will need to succeed in all aspects of life,” Anna shared.