Fifteeen-year-old Renata had been taunted so cruelly over her appearance that she stopped attending school and has been home-schooled for the last three years.
So she applied to a not-for-profit organisation in New York to give her free plastic surgery (see the before and after results above).
“They were just calling me ‘that girl with the big nose,’” Renata told NBC News. “It just really hurts. And you can’t get over it.”
Little Baby Face Foundation provides free plastic surgery to low-income children who have facial deformities.
Some of the kids who apply to the Little Baby Face Foundation do so because they are being teased over their looks. But is plastic surgery a smart way to help bullying victims?
Renata and her mum Michelle say yes. So they applied to Little Baby Face Foundation for help.
“I tried convincing myself that I am fine the way I am, but I just don’t believe it anymore,” Renata wrote in her application letter.
The idea of using plastic surgery to stop a child from being bullied has some experts very concerned, including psychologist Vivian Diller.
“Are we saying that the responsibility falls on the kid who’s bullied, to alter themselves surgically?” Diller asked in an interview with NBC News. “We really have to address the idea that there should be zero tolerance of bullying, and maybe we even have to encourage the acceptance of differences.”
Renata’s mum disagrees. To her it’s similar to correcting any other sort of medical problem a child might have. “Parents correct kids’ teeth with braces to make their teeth straighter,” Michelle’s mother said. “They’re still the same kid on the inside, but, unfortunately, people are judged on how they look.”
Renata was diagnosed with a hemi-facial microsomia, which left her face underdeveloped and caused her nose to lean to the left. It’s the second most common facial birth defect after clefts, occurring in as many as 1 in 5,000 newborns, although that may be an underestimate, because the condition is often not diagnosed, or treated.
Like Renata, many children with hemi-facial microsomia may not even recognize that they have a deformity. All Renata knew was that she hated her crooked nose, and that there was a chance she could have a new one. The plastic surgeon she subsequently saw also offered her a a new chin, to provide balance to her face, he said. The teenager had never considered her chin to be a problem before, but she and her mother agreed to the implant.