A spirited 10-year-old from Spring Lake MI, who was attacked by a raccoon as an infant, is excited to spend a week in Royal Oak at where she'll get a new nose, ears, lips and lots of Popsicles.
Charlotte Ponce is the facial reconstruction patient of Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyasate with Beaumont's Craniofacial Clinic. Charlotte's first procedure is scheduled for Aug. 15.
"Her big thing is getting free Popsicles," said Sharon Ponce, Charlotte's adoptive mother. "She is silly. She is a typical girl. She is very animated and she loves animals and Popsicles."
Popsicles aside, this is a perfect time for Charlotte to undergo plastic surgery, her mother said.
"She will be a teenager soon. She is a little more self conscious than she used to be. Charlotte doesn't talk much about her injuries. She just wants to be normal."
When Charlotte was 3 and a half months old her birth mother laid her down for a nap with a bottle and then left her unattended.
"It was a hot day - 90 degrees outside," said Tim Ponce, Charlotte's adoptive father. "The raccoon was a pet and was probably looking for a place to cool off. Somehow the raccoon got inside her room and ate her ear, nose, and the side of her face. She probably had milk on her face and you know how animals are."
At the time Charlotte's older brother Marshall was in the room with her. He was 18 months old at the time and was unharmed.
The Ponces, who are the biological aunt and uncle of the two children, took custody of the siblings after the incident.
"The birth parents lost their rights and we've had them since," Sharon said. "Six years ago we adopted them."
Charlotte had her first reconstructive surgery when she was 3 years old and has had a half dozen or so since - so many that Sharon lost count.
"The doctors around here did the best they could," she said.
Sharon, who doesn't have a computer, decided to use her husband's smart phone one day to search for a pediatric plastic surgeon for Charlotte and stumbled across Chaiyasate who was in the news for reconstructing a nose for a teen from Honduras.
"I showed Charlotte this boy's nose. I said 'It looks pretty good, doesn't it?' And she agreed so I called Dr. Chaiyasate and he said to bring her in. He wanted to meet her. He's an awesome doctor."
Sharon said Chaiyasate told her the surgery will last six to 10 hours. Charlotte will be in the hospital for a week after that.
In the meantime, the community of Spring Lake is rallying behind Charlotte. Several fundraisers have been organized to help the family offset some of their expenses.
"We are overwhelmed by the response we have had," Sharon said. "For so many years we felt so alone. Now people are coming out of the woodwork."
With Charlotte’s surgery fast approaching words of encouragement in cards, letters or postcards can be sent to Charlotte Ponce, PO Box 397, Fruitport MI 49415.