Elise Lutz never let her friends see what was left of her ear.
She’d carefully style her long hair into a one-sided ponytail, or swelter under a swim cap for hours at meets, to cover the molten lump from a severe burn as a toddler in her native China.
But as a teenager, the North Carolina girl expressed her desire to be whole again with a simple request: She really wanted pierced earrings. Thus began a months-long quest for a new right ear, one made of silicone but so lifelike that it even glows a bit in the sun like real skin.
Elise benefited from a little known field called anaplastology, where medical artists make Hollywood-like special effects come alive to fix disfigurements that standard plastic surgery cannot.
“It kind of took forever, but it was worth it,” says Elise, 14, as she headed to show her transformation to her dad and sisters. “I’m so excited, I’m more than 100 excited.”
This time, she would go under the knife to have rods implanted in her skull to snap her new ear into place – and hold it even when this passionate swimmer dives into the pool.