Doing Great

Charlotte is in a new school this year, and she has really enjoyed the transition.  She has chosen to take Dance and Art classes as her elective and is already making new friends.  She is up early every morning and eager to go to school.

Charlotte also has started gymnastics on Thursday nights.  She has so much fun and is picking up pretty quickly.

Charlotte had a surgery this summer that went very well.  Some fat (they had a hard time finding enough because she’s so skinny) was taken from her abdomen and used to build out her right cheek.  Part of her left ear was used to even out the shape of her nose.

My Fox Detroit featured Charlotte earlier this month in a wonderful piece.
Fox 2 News Story on Charlotte Ponce

The photo below was taken prior to her most recent surgery.  Near her birthday, she received a very generous gift of classic books, which she has started reading.  She still gets cards and notes of encouragement each month, and this helps boost her confidence and to remember that she has so many people out there praying and caring for her.

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Charlotte enjoys a gift of new reading material.   Included in the classic paperbacks is a copy of  “Charlotte’s Web” – perfect!

Charlotte started seeing a new therapist, and she seems to be benefiting already from the appointments.  Charlotte is undergoing a series of testing and evaluation regarding the effect that her post-traumatic development has had on her.  It will take time and effort, but through hard work, she should start to see improvement in her social behavior and her education.

At the end of the month, Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyasate, chief plastic surgeon on Charlotte’s reconstruction, will be honored at a banquet for his excellent work.  Charlotte and our family have been invited to attend.  An author writing about the outstanding work done at Beaumont will feature Charlotte’s story in her book, and will photograph her at the banquet.

We are so fortunate to have seen Charlotte come so far in the past year.  She has healed very well from her surgeries and is starting the road to emotional and mental recovery.  She will still have a series of surgeries to rebuild her right ear, which is missing entirely.  This will likely begin next summer.

Thank you for your continued well wishes and prayers.

Update on Charlotte

Many of you have been asking for an update on Charlotte.  Physically, Charlotte is doing very well, but emotionally, she is still a bit fragile.  Switching to a younger grade at her school mid-year was good for her academically but hard socially.  She had one close friend in fourth grade whom she doesn’t get to see much because they now have different lunch hours and recess.  As a third grader, she is older than many of the kids in her class.  She may switch schools next fall to ease the difficulty of having her peers move on a grade ahead of her.

Her adoptive mother, Sharon, had surgery two weeks ago.  It was fairly routine, but required overnight stay in the hospital where her uncle was hospitalized with terminal cancer.  While it was explained to Charlotte that this was nothing for her to worry about, she misunderstood and thought that her mother would die.  She did not say anything until she melted down completely nearly a week after the surgery.  She seems to understand now that her mother is in no immediate danger and that life can go back to normal, but it was a very difficult time for her emotionally.

As some of you following may know, Charlotte’s uncle did not make it to the party planned in his honor which was mentioned in the last post.  He had passed away the night before in his home.  There was a lovely service that was well-attended as Tom Ponce was a friendly, hardworking man with many good friends.  Charlotte’s father, Tim, has had an especially difficult time dealing with his identical twin brother’s passing.

The family participated in Relay for Life – Muskegon over the weekend in remembrance of Tom Ponce.  While much of the extended family could not make the event, the immediate family was in attendance for the majority of the 24 hour event.  Charlotte walked more than five miles in laps on Friday evening alone.  She helped to sell hair ribbons and tulle tutus to raise funds in support of the American Cancer Society.  The family is hoping to make this an annual event in remembrance of Tom and other friends and family members who have battled cancer.

Charlotte has a surgery coming up in July.  The doctor is going to plump up her right cheek, which will help her face be symmetrical and should make a big improvement on her overall appearance.  Charlotte needs to fatten up a little bit for her next surgery so they have some fat to borrow for her cheek.  Charlotte is a skinny little girl, and each time Dr. Chiayasate sees her in his office, he tisks and says, “More donuts!”

We also may look into electrolysis for hair removal on her nose.  Her nose needs a shave every few days as the transplant skin from her forehead retained the hair follicles and she gets a bit fuzzy if they go untamed.  We are hoping that permanent hair removal will help her nose look more natural.

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.  Probably mostly as a result in our lapse in posts, Charlotte has seen very little mail.  If you have a stamp and a few minutes to spare, please consider sending Charlotte a brief note to let her know that you’re still thinking of her.  She loves to hear from you! Charlotte Ponce, PO Box 397, Fruitport, MI 49415.

Wishing you a warm and blessed week.

Wishing You Well On Easter

Thank you to those who continue to write, email and post your well wishes for Charlotte and her family.  Medically, Charlotte is doing very well.  Some of the scars of her surgeries have faded, and it is hard to remember what she looked like before she had her nose.  She has learned to use makeup to help cover her scars for special occasions.  She likely will have surgeries to help smooth out some of the scar tissues on her face before any work begins in reconstructing her ear.

In the last post, we shared that Charlotte was heading to school.  Because she missed so much school while she was undergoing her facial reconstruction, she had a difficult time transitioning into fourth grade and keeping up with her peers.  In February, they suggested that she repeat fourth grade.  Rather than have her continue to struggle the rest of the year, we decided to move her into a third grade class for the remainder of the year.

She is performing better in the third grade class, but continues to struggle in some core areas, reading in particular.  Charlotte has not been evaluated for learning disability since she was in Kindergarten and given her boost of confidence thanks to her new nose and the loving support of many of you, we suspect that she may be struggling due to more than shyness and confidence concerns.

Charlotte has missed too many days this year to be evaluated by the public school district, so she will see a specialist with community mental health this week.  We hope to learn more about ways that we can assist her with her studies and help her to be a proficient reader and successful student.

We had just settled into a period of normalcy when, just a few weeks ago, Charlotte’s uncle Tom was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer that had spread to his liver.  A surgery attempt just days before his 62nd birthday this St. Patrick’s Day proved unsuccessful in removing a tumor in his colon.  This weekend, we learned that the cancer has taken over his liver and without it functioning, he has a matter of weeks to live.  Tim, Charlotte’s adoptive father, is heartbroken at the prospect of losing his twin brother, whom he has worked alongside for nearly 40 years at Sara Lee.

The doctors don’t feel they can do any more for Tom and are sending him home in the care of hospice tomorrow.  As we prepare our Easter Sunday dinner, we will be short at the table as Tim is by his brother’s side at the hospital.   At this point, only a miracle can save Tom, so we ask you to please pray for one.  And, without one, we pray for help through this difficult time for our whole family.

We will have a family get-together on Saturday to celebrate Tom’s wonderful life, in which he made friends with nearly all he met.  Please also help pray that Tom is strong enough enjoy at least one more family gathering.

Thank you , to everyone who continues to care about our little amazing spitfire of a girl, and we wish you a blessed Easter.

This entry was posted on March 31, 2013. 3 Comments

Back to School

Charlotte is going back to school for the first time this year.  She popped out of bed bright and early today, eager to get started.  She wore a new headband and some concealer over her scars.  We will update you later today to let you know how her first day went.

This entry was posted on January 7, 2013. 4 Comments

Backstage at the Nutcracker

Yesterday, Charlotte had another first!  She enjoyed the ballet live for the first time.  The Grand Rapids Ballet Company and students of the Grand Rapids Ballet School welcomed Charlotte backstage before and after their performance of “The Nutcracker.”

The Grand Rapids Ballet Company was generous to invite Charlotte to the performance along with three family members for the show.  Her dad and brother stayed home, and she was joined by mom Sharon, sister-in-law Amber, and niece Aurora for a girls afternoon outing.

The stars of the performance were very sweet to Charlotte, welcoming her to check out their costumes, shoes and props.  She met with the Nutcracker Prince (Stephen Sanford), the Sugar Plum Fairy (Rachael Riley) and Clara (Matisen Douglas).  Charlotte is eager more than ever to explore dancing, and we will begin looking at schools in our neighborhood to give her this opportunity.

Enjoy a gallery of photos from the outing on MLive.com by photographer Chris Clark, http://photos.mlive.com/4469/gallery/charlotte_ponce_goes_backstage_at_the_nutcracker/index.html.

This entry was posted on December 17, 2012. 1 Comment

All Done!

Charlotte’s final major nose surgery was successfully completed today and she is excited to come home tomorrow.  While she may have a few minor surgeries (“revisions” as Dr. Chaiyasate calls them) early next year, we don’t anticipate ear reconstruction until next spring/early summer.

Beaumont tweeted live updates this morning and many Twitter users offered support using the hashtag #healingcharlotte.

This entry was posted on November 30, 2012. 5 Comments

Final Major Nose Surgery

Tomorrow at 8:30 AM, Charlotte is scheduled to complete her final major nose surgery.  The flap which connects her forehead to the transplanted nose skin will be removed and some minor modifications will be made to the nasal structure.

Despite slower than anticipated healing of Charlotte’s forehead, where the skin for her nose was grafted from, we no longer expect that additional skin grafts will be needed to correct this.  The skin should eventually heal with minimal scarring and she will wear bandages until the open wounds will heal.

Charlotte, as ever, is just holding up super during this difficult time.  She is eager to complete the process and despite what must be tremendous pain, she is optimistic and goofy as ever.  We are so blessed that she has such a positive outlook despite such adverse situations.

Beaumont will be doing a live twitter feed updating her progress throughout the surgery.  You can follow along and share your support using the hashtag #healingcharlotte.  Follow the feed online at:  https://twitter.com/search?q=%23healingcharlotte&src=typd

I know we’ve thanked you before, but we can never thank enough the people who have followed Charlotte’s progress throughout this reconstruction and have showed their overwhelming support.  We know that Charlotte is special, and the fact that so many that don’t know her personally have also developed an attachment and love for this brave little girl is so heartwarming and helps her and her family make it through it.

This entry was posted on November 29, 2012. 1 Comment