Free plastic surgery for bullied teen stirs controversy
Published Tuesday, July 31, 2012 5:05PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 31, 2012 10:45PM EDT
The story of a 14-year-old girl who underwent plastic surgery to put an end to years of schoolyard taunting has sparked debate over what many believe is a drastic response to bullying.
U.S. teen Nadia Ilse got $40,000 worth of surgery for free through the Little Baby Face Foundation, which offers corrective surgery for children with facial deformities and, apparently, those who are bullied because of their appearance.
CNN recently featured Nadia’s quest for acceptance in a segment with the network’s medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Before she went under the knife, Nadia told Gupta that kids have been calling her “Dumbo” – and worse – since a girl in Grade 1 told her: “You have the biggest ears I’ve ever seen.”
By age 10, Nadia was begging her mom to allow her to get otoplasty, a surgical procedure to pin her ears back.
Her mom did some research and came across the non-profit Little Baby Face Foundation, which flew the Georgia pair to New York City to meet with its president, Dr. Thomas Romo.
Although Nadia had only asked for an otoplasty, Romo told her she should also get her nose and chin fixed. He told the teen that once her ears are pinned back, her asymmetrical nose and “pointy” chin would stand out.
“I love thin chins, but I don’t want them as pointy as that chin,” Romo tells Nadia in front of CNN cameras while marking incision points on her face in preparation for the surgery.
Nadia came out of the operating room with a new nose, chin and the ears she had wanted.
Looking at herself in the mirror for the first time after the bandages were taken off, she says: “I look beautiful. This is exactly what I wanted. I love it.”
She now plans to attend counselling in hopes of putting the memories of classroom tormenting behind her.
The story quickly made the rounds online, with numerous parenting blogs and websites aimed at teen girls denouncing plastic surgery as a solution to bullying and low self-esteem in kids.
Jezebel, a website that focuses on women’s interests, called Nadia’s excitement after surgery “heartbreaking,” while other sites questioned the message Nadia’s experience sends to other bullied girls.
“Plastic surgery is a lousy response to bullying,” was the Twitter response from the Mommyish.com blog.
“So so wrong,” Twitter user @GirlEmpowerment wrote, while @PeepCheeks said she had “mixed feelings about this ‘solution’ at such a young age.”
Others, however, said that bullying can have serious, long-lasting effects and that plastic surgery can give kids the confidence to overcome it.
In the CNN interview, Nadia acknowledged that she and her peers should be accepted for who they are, but said she had to have the surgery because the bullying “will never stop” and will only get worse.
Even with her new look, Nadia said she’s nervous about the upcoming school year.
“But I think I can pull it through,” she said.