Charlotte Rose Ponce is a twelve year old girl from West Michigan. Like most girls her age, she likes to play pretend and dress up. And, like most girls her age, she’s becoming self-conscious about her appearance. But Charlotte’s concerns about her appearance have been anything but typical.
As an infant, Charlotte was attacked by a pet raccoon in her crib. She barely survived the attack, and spent months in the hospital before release. The animal had eaten away her nose, right ear, part of her lips and cheekbones. Fortunately, her bright blue eyes remained untouched. She and her brother, Marshall, were removed from the home and put into foster care with her great aunt and uncle while the parents were investigated. Nearly three years later, the state formally removed parental rights and Tim and Sharon Ponce, the children’s great aunt and uncle, adopted the children.
Before her tenth birthday, Charlotte had already gone through half a dozen major reconstructive surgeries. Skin grafts from her forehead helped to replace some of the scar tissue between her eye and nose. A very painful surgery in which posts were drilled into her skull to mount prosthetic ear and nose pieces was unsuccessful. Her facial tissue became inflamed and would try to heal over them. Eventually, one of the posts intended to hold the prosthetic nose in place was dislodged and pushed out by tissues trying to heal themselves. Her prosthetic ear posts are perpetually infected. In early 2012, they were capped in hopes that this would help them heal. As they continued to be an irritant and disappointment, the family looked to alternate options.
In mid-2012, Sharon Ponce learned of a surgeon in Eastern Michigan who specialized in reconstructive surgeries, Dr Konkrit Chaiyasate. When she contacted him, she found he had recently performed a successful nose reconstruction for a Honduran boy. Dr. C immediately got to work restoring Charlotte’s appearance. Dr. C has already performed nearly a dozen operations, and this far has constructed a nose, restored part of her upper lip, built up her flattened right cheek, and most recently, has constructed a right ear. He has done a phenomenal job.
Since 2012, Charlotte has received letters from all over the world and has gained new confidence. She has also since learned that she struggles with dyslexia among other learning and emotional challenges. Charlotte, now 12 years old, is not yet enrolled in the 2014 fall school year as her family is weighing local options to meet Charlotte’s specialized educational needs.