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Mich. girl ready for challenge of coming surgeries

Associated Press Modified: August 23, 2012 at 11:03 am •  Published: August 23, 2012

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) — Charlotte Ponce soon will be home after successfully undergoing the first in a series of surgeries designed to reconstruct the nose, lips and ear that were badly damaged in a raccoon attack when she was a baby.

Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyasate of Beaumont Hospital in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak last week used skin from the 10-year-old Spring Lake girl's forearm to begin creating her nasal lining. The next time around, Chaiyasate will work to build the structure of Charlotte's nose.

In all, it will take two years to complete the reconstructive work doctors have planned.

Charlotte's adoptive mother, Sharon, said her daughter is "up for the challenge."

"She's looking forward to getting it done and to just being like everybody else," said Sharon Ponce, who added that Charlotte would get upset when a child — scared of her appearance — ran away on the school playground.

Charlotte is to return to her West Michigan home either Thursday or Friday and continue recovering for six to eight weeks before returning to Beaumont for a second surgery. She'll be home-schooled this year.

Sharon Ponce said she knew Charlotte was going to be OK when the child walked into the hospital for the first time and proudly proclaimed, "I'm going to like it here," and finished off a 12-pack of red, white and blue Popsicles 48 hours after the first surgery.

Sharon Ponce, 52, and her husband, Tim, 61, are Charlotte's great-aunt and great-uncle. They adopted her in 2005 after Michigan terminated the biological parents' rights.

The raccoon attacked Charlotte in her crib. Her biological parents were charged with owning a dangerous animal that caused serious injury and were placed on probation. The Ponces believe the raccoon, which later was destroyed, wanted Charlotte's bottle.

She's already undergone a half-dozen surgeries, but the ones at Beaumont are expected to significantly repair the damage done by the animal in 2002.

Chaiyasate said that when he's finished, Charlotte will look "cute."

"I can guarantee you that I'm going to treat her like my child," he said.


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