3-month-old Charlotte Ponce was subjected to a horrible incident that she would be reminded of for the rest of her life every time she would look into the mirror.
Charlotte was asleep in her bed at home in Ravenna and that’s when their family’s pet raccoon came silently into her bed.
Her parents had put her in her bed to sleep with her bottle of milk. It was later assumed that Charlotte had spilt milk over her face – because the family’s pet racoon soon crept into her crib, probably attracted to the smell.
That’s when the unthinkable happened: The racoon began chewing at Charlotte’s little face. The raccoon permanently disfigured Charlotte who lost her right ear, nose, upper lip and parts of her right cheek in the terrible attack.
The horrific incident lead to Charlotte’s biological parents losing custody over her and her brother. The biological parents’ rights were taken.
Both children were put in custody with their relatives, Sharon and Tim Ponce. The Ponces contacted the children’s birth mom and her grandparents and offered to serve as temporary foster parents as the authorities investigated.
Charlotte just about survived the attack, and spent months in the hospital before release. “It’s a miracle she survived,” said Sharon Ponce, Charlotte’s mother.
Her face was left so deformed that she had a hard time participating in social activities with other kids, and therefore became depressed. Thankfully, her amazing blue eyes remained untouched.
Apart from numerous painful reconstructive surgeries, the little girl didnt ever give out. When she was released from the hospital two months after the attack, Charlotte was on a feeding tube and needed breathing treatments.
Sharon panicked the first night as she struggled to hook up the feeding tube. She called a friend from church, who is a nurse, and the friend came over, calmed her down and helped her through it.
Even more difficult, however, was listening to tiny Charlotte’s heartbreaking cries at night. Before her tenth birthday, Charlotte had already gone through six major reconstructive surgeries.
Skin grafts from her forehead helped to replace some of the scar tissue between her eye and nose.
An extremely painful surgery in which posts were drilled into her skull to mount prosthetic ear and nose pieces was unsuccessful. Sharon Ponce learned of a surgeon in Eastern Michigan who specialized in reconstructive surgeries in 2012.
Eleven years after the horrible incident, Dr. Chaiyaste prepared to carry out the biggest and most important reconstructive surgery she’d undergone thus far.
The plan was to remove cartilage from her ribs, which then would be operated into her arm, where a new ear would begin to grow and be shaped.
It would transplanted to her actual ear area to replace the one she’d lost as a baby. “She’s a fighter,” the surgeon said. “She’s never cried. With every surgery, she’s never complained.”
At age 14 now, Charlotte can finally do something she’s been dreaming of as long for as she can remember – wear earrings. The girl has saved over 50 pairs while waiting for her new ear.
Thanks to her skilled and brilliant doctors, Charlotte will finally start to feel a little more like other people her age. This operation meant a lot to Charlotte.
She didn’t ever stop hoping and dreaming – and now she wants to become a biomedical engineer when she’s older, she can help others who have lost parts of their face or body, too.
Charlotte also grown into a high-spirited girl who loves swimming, fishing and riding horses.
Charlotte has received letters from across the world and has gained new confidence. “She’s gotten all kinds of letters,” Sharon Ponce said. “People said they look at the courage she has, and it gives them courage.”
Along with the cards, her doll Carly received some gifts, too, including new clothes and a “get well” kit so that she can have a bandaged arm like Charlotte.
And the Ponces, once temporary guardians, are now Mom and Dad to Charlotte and her brother Marshall. They have helped Charlotte through the intense days of recovery from her injuries and through countless surgeries since then. “It’s been a big journey,” said Tim Ponce.
Through a Facebook page called “Friends of Charlotte Rose” that details the teen’s journey, Charlotte’s mother said her daughter has inspired people she hasn’t even met. “She’s my hero,” said Sharon. “We just love her – that’s all. Like anybody who has adopted a child, they’re yours.”
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