For as long as she can remember, Dawn Harvey's left ear has always been a 'work in progress'.
The mother-of-four, who lives in north Stafford, Staffordshire, has had more than a dozen operations after surgeons removed it when she was seven-months-old.
Now, the 38-year-old's confidence been restored by world-renowned aural surgeon Dr Satoru Nagata as he carried out his first ear reconstruction in Britain.
Earlier this month, watched via video-link by 60 international surgeons at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Japanese surgeon spent 12 hours designing, moulding and stitching Mrs Harvey's earlobe.
In the revolutionary procedure, which requires two rather than four operations, cartilage is taken from a lower rib and carved into shape, before it is attached and covered with a skin graft.
Mrs Harvey's parents had assumed the large, red mark over her left ear was just a big birth mark when she was born.
Weeks later it became swollen and began to encompass the ear, but it was only seven months later, when her weight began to plummet, that doctors at the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary diagnosed the condition as haemangioma.
Doctors then told her mother Pauline Hulme she must make an agonising decision.
"I was told Dawn needed surgery to remove the growth, which was over a major blood vessel, but she only had a 50-50 chance of surviving," she said. "But if she didn't have surgery she would not live to see her first day at school. That was one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make. Obviously, we went for the operation but we didn't realise that surgeons would remove her ear as well."
After minor surgery in 1971 to build a left ear arch to enable the four-year-old to wear glasses at school, an arduous series of operations followed.
Mrs Harvey said: "I had an operation a year for the next 12 years and it just became normal for me.
"Junior school was hell because I got teased really badly because of my ear, but that more or less stopped by the time I reached high school."
It was while her sevenyearold son, Tyler, was being treated at Selly Oak Hospital for the same congenital condition that the possibility of a new ear was mooted.
Last December, Mrs Harvey met consultant plastic surgeon Lok Huei Yap at his clinic, but heard nothing until last month.
"He called to ask if I wanted to have reconstructive surgery instead of a prosthetic ear and explained it all too me," she said. "I didn't have anything really to lose." A week before surgery, Mr Yap took moulds of both her ears to help Dr Nagata produce the anatomically correct shape.
On June 3, Mrs Harvey went into theatre for the surgeon's first operation in a British hospital.
Unfortunately she was unable to thank the surgeon after the operation - as he had already flown back to Japan.
"I gave the nurses a card to pass on to him, but I never got the chance to thank him in person.
"I was nervous about seeing the results, but so far everybody's been impressed by how natural it looks.
"This will give me my confidence back, especially with my hairstyles - I might be a bit more adventurous with it now." Mr Yap, one of Dr Nagata's eight proteges worldwide, explained this was a major coup for the hospital.
"Dr Nagata is the world's foremost expert in this field having taken a technique and completely modified it, to produce the most aesthetically pleasing results," he said.
"I felt Dawn represented a very complex, reconstructive challenge that would be a suitable case for Dr Nagata. The surgeons who were watching the procedure were universally impressed. It's not easy and it needs to be done by a meticulous surgeon with artistic inclination.
"We now hope to develop and spread knowledge about this technique across Britain."