This Bullied 6-Year-Old Got Plastic Surgery, WHOA, What A Difference

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Family, Self

You won't believe the crazy change.

Imagine being a small child, constantly being made fun of because of your ears. What if you were bullied everyday, taunted by the other kids who called you "Elf ears"? What would that do to your self-esteem, and what lasting scars would it make? It's difficult for adults to be stared and laughed at, but for a child it'd be excruciating. 

Recently, first-grader Gage Berger had cosmetic surgery called an ear pinback (Otoplasty) to fix his very prominent ears. Gage told Inside Edition that he was picked on by the kids at his Salt Lake City school, and that the other children said, "that I look like an elf and I have weird ears." Explaining further, Gage said, "I just don't want to be made fun of." 

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In an article in the New York Daily NewsSteven J. Pearlman, MD, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon said, "If you look at cartoons depicting individuals of lesser intelligence, they are often drawn with big, protruding ears. It's harder [for the child] to make friends so they become socially stunted. They are also perceived as less intelligent by peers and even adults."

Bullied kids are at an increased risk of having anxiety disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts well into adulthood.

A 2013 study from Duke University showed that while the common perception that bullying (while painful) wasn't lasting, it actually has a long-term affect on the victim — one that can affect not only their mental health, but the overall quality of their life. 

"We were surprised at how profoundly bullying affects a person long-term," said William E Copeland, PhD, and the lead author of the study. "This psychological damage doesn't just go away because a person grew up and is no longer bullied. This is something that stays with them." 

Being bullied for his ears had already started to affect Gage. "He just gets really down on himself and he thinks, 'I'm not good enough,'" Gage's mother told Inside Edition.

When faced with what years of being bullied would do to Gage, and luckily having the resources, Gage's parents brought him to a plastic surgeon for the Otoplasty.

This corrective surgery is recommended for ears that stick out more than 4/5 of an inch from the back of the head. It can be performed at any age after the ears have reached their full size, usually at five or six years of age. Having this surgery at such a young age had the benefit of his cartilage being more pliable and easier to reshape.

The surgery begins with an incision (in the most inconspicuous spot the surgeon can find) behind the ear, in the fold where the ear is attached to the head. The surgeon may remove skin and cartilage or just trim and reshape the cartilage.

In addition to correcting the protrusion, the ears may also be reshaped, reduced in size, or simply made more symmetrical. The cartilage is then secured in the new position with permanent stitches anchoring the ear. Soft dressings are placed over the ears for a few weeks as protection, and the patient normally only experiences a little tenderness or mild discomfort.

Headbands are sometimes recommended to hold the ears in place for a month following surgery or may be prescribed for nighttime wear only. Gage had his stuffed toy lion wear a headband, too.

Plastic surgery at age six may not be the right decision for your child, but for Gage, it was.