Although bullying isn’t limited to school-age children, and many Internet trolls are actually adults, it’s incredibly sad to see a little kid being picked on for how they look. Those cruel words can stick with them for life, which really takes a toll on their self-confidence and makes them think they aren’t good enough the way they are.
Unfortunately, this was the case for 11-year-old Bella Harrington, who underwent pediatric plastic surgery in December as the result of being bullied at school because her ears stuck out. As reported on by WRIC 8 News, Bella and her mother Sabrina had considered the surgical procedure known as an otoplasty, which pins the ears back, for years after the bullying became too intense. “They would always point it out, but then the more people pointed it out, is when I wanted to change it,” Bella said. “I thought they stuck out way too much.” Sabrina added, “They were teasing her over it. One thing they said, she had elf ears.”
— 8News WRIC Richmond (@8NEWS) February 27, 2018
Surprisingly, these types of requests are not as uncommon as you may have thought. We spoke to Palo Alto, CA facial plastic surgeon Jill Hessler, MD for her insight on the topic. “Being bullied and picked on is what often drives children to ask their parents to seek treatment for a particular area. Even for adults, is the realization that other people notice their concerns, which often drives them to seek treatment. At a young age, being made fun of can have a significant impact on a child’s developing self-esteem and the way they interact with others, which can have long-term impact.”
Dr. Hessler also notes that because the stigma surrounding plastic surgery has softened in recent years, people aren’t as scared of it and there’s a greater awareness about procedures that can help these concerns. “For children, otoplasty, or surgery to correct prominent ears, is probably the most common concern. Otoplasty can be performed on younger children because the ears are felt to be mostly fully developed and reach 85 percent of their adult size by age six, so this is thought to be an appropriate time for surgery, especially if bullying has become an issue. Other procedures, such as removal of large or deforming moles or lesions, are also frequently sought after at this young age, along with scar removal or scar revision.”
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Rhinoplasty, aka a nose job, is another popular request as children become young adults, according to Dr. Hessler, but the procedure can’t be performed until the patient is 16–18 years old. “Surgical procedures to address the nose must wait because the skull and facial bones (particularly the nasal bones) continue to mature into the teenage years. It is thought that surgery on this area can disrupt the growth plates and alter facial balance if done prematurely.”
It’s been two months since Bella’s surgery, and both her and her mom are incredibly happy with the results. “I was so happy,” Bella told WRIC. She even wears her hair up often now and isn’t “focused on if people can see” her ears. “It’s no different than getting braces that change your appearance,” Sabrina said. “If it’s going to make you feel better about yourself, so be it.” We couldn’t agree more.
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