Facing the future

Charlotte Ponce looked like any 10-year-old girl playing at a Ferrysburg Park last week. She frolicked on playground equipment then ran to the water's edge to watch a family of ducks splashing in Spring Lake.
Marie Havenga
Aug 14, 2012

“Fat duck,” Charlotte called out to a weighty waterfowl.

“She's a princess one minute and a tom boy the next,” Charlotte's adoptive mom, Sharon Ponce, said.

Charlotte’s fairy tale is about to come true, and a pediatric plastic surgeon will play the prince.

On Wednesday, Charlotte will undergo the first in a series of reconstructive surgeries to rebuild her nose, lips and right ear. A raccoon ravaged them when she was three months old.

In September 2002, a raccoon climbed into the infant's crib at her birth family's Ravenna home and chewed off much of her face.

Wednesday's surgery is at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. It is expected to last up to eight hours.

The focus will be on the nose, because it is the most visible. Several other surgeries will be scheduled over the next nine months for ear and lip reconstruction.

“The doctor thinks he can give her an ear and they'll do the first step for the nose and full set of lips,” Ponce said. “I have full confidence in him.”

She noted that doctors in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor attempted procedures in the past, but nothing worked.

Ponce said she is grateful to friends and community members for their support. A spaghetti dinner fundraiser last month brought in more than $10,000, and an anonymous donor is flying the family to Royal Oak in his private jet for the surgery.

When Charlotte is in the hospital, family and friends plan a surprise bedroom makeover.

“It's just overwhelming,” Ponce said. “Charlotte is our little hero. Even when she was a baby she had this fighting spirit. I couldn't imagine my life without her.”

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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