ST Elizabeth's School, Tarragindi, Prep student Harriet Sanders, who was born without ears on either side of her head, just wants to wear earrings, like all her friends.
Now, thanks to medical 3D printing, the four-year-old soon will.
Harriet, who was born with bilateral microtia and atresia, has undergone ground-breaking surgery in Sydney, making her wish of getting her ears pierced a reality.
Microtia and atresia is a rare congenital condition affecting one in every 10,000 births.
It can cause moderate conductive bilateral hearing loss.
Through the support of 'Hear and Say', Harriet has been fitted with bilateral Cochlear BAHA 5 bone conduction hearing aids (a headband-mounted hearing aid which conducts sound through the bone in Harriet's forehead).
Harriet is now able to speak and hear just like any other student.
She loves reading, writing, drawing, playing, attending the specialist lessons of Sport, Music and Art, and every aspect of the Prep school day at St Elizabeth's.
Harriet is an enthusiastic learner with her beautiful smile brightening the classroom on a daily basis.
Until recently children with microtia and atresia, had to travel to the United States at a huge cost for the reconstruction surgery.
Now an Australian surgeon, Dr Joe Dusseldorp has taken on this task, using a 3D printer to build new ears for children.
He will use modern technology to 3D print a scaffold of an ear, before connecting it to Harriet's head.
The scaffold has tiny holes in it, which will allow Harriet's tissue to grow into it; then it will be covered with skin grafts (from above her ear and inner thigh) to make it look like a normal ear.
The surgery for Harriet's other ear will occur early in 2022.
Harriet's mother, Anna Sanders visited Harriet's Prep class on June 24 to read the book, Chelsea's New Ears (written by the mother of a child with the same condition as Harriet) and answered questions from the class.
Harriet's Prep teacher, Brigitte Egan said the book and the visuals helped the students to better understand the whole process, saying “the children are so inquisitive, and accepting of differences".
During the holidays Harriet travelled to Sydney with her parents for the operation.
For Harriet the operation allows her to do little things like pushing her hair behind her ears, wear sunglasses and earrings, improving her confidence and adding to Harriet's already beaming smile – which is witnessed daily by the students and staff of St Elizabeth's!
Indeed, Harriet is a true example of the St Elizabeth's theme for 2021, “Be the Voice, Be the Light, Be the Love".
Like the words of the song, written especially for the theme by Music Teacher, Anne Flood, Harriet truly is brave, “day after day".
Brisbane Catholic Education Office
2A Burke Street, Woolloongabba Qld 4102 Australia
Turrbal and Yuggera Country
GPO Box 1201 Brisbane 4001 Australia
Phone: (07) 3033 7000
Fax: (07) 3844 5101