Charlotte Ponce holds her cat Sophie in her Spring Lake area home Thursday, November 15, 2012. She is wearing the dance outfit given as a gift from Diane’s School of Dance, located in Fruitport, Mich. Charlotte, who longs to take ballet lessons someday, will undergo her fourth surgery since August to repair facial injuries caused by a raccoon attack when she was an infant. (Chris Clark | MLive.com)
By Sue Thoms
ROYAL OAK, MI – Charlotte Ponce will reach a big milestone when she undergoes her fourth reconstructive surgery today.
“When she goes home, she is supposed to have her smile,” said Charlotte’s mother, Sharon Ponce. “This will be the first one where something is actually done. She’ll have her lip done.
“That will be exciting.”
Charlotte, a 10-year-old from Spring Lake, is undergoing a series of operations to repair injuries caused to her face by a raccoon attack when she was a baby.
Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyasate, of Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, has performed three operations to rebuild her nose. In the second operation, he used a flap from the forehead to create the outer layer of the nose. In the third surgery, he began repair work on Charlotte’s upper right lip, using skin transferred from her lower lip.
In the operation scheduled for this morning, Friday, Nov. 16, he plans to thin out the new nose, fill in the cheek and put the finishing touches on the lip, Ponce said.
As Sharon and Tim Ponce made the three-hour drive with Charlotte to the hospital Thursday afternoon, Charlotte showed no fear or anxiety as she prepared for today’s surgery.
“She’s doing great – she’s the same old Charlotte,” Ponce said.
And as with the previous operations, Charlotte’s spirits have been raised by the support shown by friends, family and the community.
After Charlotte mentioned in a previous story that she wants to dance ballet, she received a ballerina Christmas ornament in the mail. And the instructor and dancers at Diane’s School of Dance in Fruitport sent her “an actual ballet outfit,” Ponce said. “She’s really excited about that.”
She thinks the plastic surgery will help Charlotte overcome a bit of nervousness about taking dance classes.
“She’s wanted that for a couple of years, but I think she was always a little bit nervous,” Ponce said. “This will open up a whole new life for her.”
Since her Nov. 2 surgery, when reconstruction began on her lip, Charlotte has only been able to eat soft foods. But the petite girl has managed to keep her weight steady eating smoothies, applesauce and protein drinks.
Charlotte’s final surgery on her nose is scheduled for Nov. 30. Next summer, she will undergo reconstructive surgery to rebuild her right ear.
Today’s operation is expected to take about two hours and, if all goes as planned, Charlotte will be released from the hospital Sunday.
“Compared to the other ones, this one will be a piece of cake,” Ponce said.