PHOENIX (KSAZ) - It's been a tough year for one Valley woman; a vicious dog attack left her without one of her ears. But thanks to amazing medical advances doctors were able to save her ear by placing it temporarily inside her body.
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Linda Weber has come in for check-ups every few months since the surgery.
"On February 20, 2015, I was out with my friends and our neighbors. They had gone home early, and I had stopped by their house to check on them. The three of us were just standing there talking. I remember seeing the dog lunge, and I just remember this tearing, ripping sensation on the side of my head. I really didn't know what was happening; they started screaming oh my god, the dog ripped your ear off. I don't know what happened because I was in shock, but they apparently got the ear out of the dogs mouth and put it in my hand," said Linda Weber.
"She came in literally holding the ear that was bitten off by the dog," said Dr. Pablo Prichard.
Dr. Prichard the Chief of Plastic Surgery at John C. Lincoln Hospital was on duty when Weber arrived. He immediately came up with a plan to save the ear.
"We had to do almost like a facelift type procedure to move the skin and fatty tissue to advance that forward and close that hole," said Prichard.
After stopping the bleeding, they couldn't immediately re-attach the ear, so they essentially had to store it somehow. So they placed the ear inside her body near her stomach.
"There's no blood supply to that piece of cartilage. If we just sew that cartilage to the side of her head, it's just dead tissue, it'll turn black and fall off and we just lost all that tissue So this is a way to keep blood supply to that piece of cartilage while we're prepping the area before we replant that piece of cartilage," he said.
"It surprised me, I thought my ear was going to be reattached, I've never gone through anything like that," said Weber.
Over the past year, she's had to undergo a series of painful surgeries. A small balloon was placed under the skin to slowly stretch the skin over time to make sure there was enough room to place the ear cartilage. After five months of the ear being inside her body, Prichard was able to remove it and finally reattach it. But Weber wasn't out of the woods yet; she still has five more surgeries to complete as Prichard shapes the ear making it look as normal as possible.
After some dark days, Weber says she's starting to see the scars both physically and mentally fade away.
"Each surgery I was dreading, now I'm looking forward to it because I know it's one step closer to finishing the whole process," said Weber.
"Over the year-long process it's been so far, I can see a metamorphosis in her mood and her outlook and her social interactions, she's a lot more social now so a real nice change in her behavior," said Prichard.
Weber had to leave her job as a nurse because of the attack. She is counting down the days when she can go back to work and put this painful chapter of her life behind her.
"I also try to keep it in perspective, things could have been worse; it is just my ear. I am functioning, I have a great husband that has supported me through this whole process, and I'll get my life back," said Weber.
She hopes to complete all her surgeries by the end of the year. In the end, she will have had ten surgeries to reattach her ear.