By Staff Reporter, Jun 24, 2013 02:42 PM EDT
(PHOTO CREDIT: YouTube)
Hearing of a 16-year-old getting a facelift may be worthy of raising an eyebrow to some, but in the case of Zara Hartshorn, it is a necessity. Zara Hartshorn has a rare condition called lipodystrophy, also known as "Benjamin Button" syndrome. According to the Sunday People, the condition gives her wrinkled skin, which resulted in Zara Hartshorn facing criticism and being called a "monkey" or "granny."
Fortunately, Zara Hartshorn's story has seen a positive turn of evens, as she has found love in Ricky Andrews and has undergone surgery for the condition, which causes premature aging, decaying of bones and the destruction of fatty tissues inside the skin.
"When I saw myself it was mixture of surprise and happiness," said Zara Hartshorn, recalling the moment when her bandages came off. "Growing up I never thought this day would come. I thought I would be the same for ever. I remember the unhappy little girl who was bullied and I want to go back and tell her it will all be all right. Now when I look in the mirror I can see opportunities that weren't there before."
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"There is the chance to go to college and have a better future," adds Zara Hartshorn. "Before surgery I was picked on for looking different. Now I look the same as other girls my age. I don't feel like people are staring at me when I walk down the street any more. I finally feel like a teenager."
Zara Hartshorn was contacted by Dr. Abhimanyu Garg, who flew her to Texas for tests, and diagnosed with an even rarer condition called cutis laxa, which weakens joints and causes heart and lung problems. She was offered a free facelift and nose augmentation by Dr. Robert Ersek.
Zara Hartshorn starred in a TV documentary about her transformation. She reveals she wants to open her own beauty salon.
"It was an amazing opportunity that I could never have dreamed of having before," said Zara Hartshorn. "I realised how life-changing it could be but I was still so nervous about how it would turn out. The night before the operation I couldn't sleep because I was so excited. Four days after the surgery when I had the bandages removed I really didn't like what I saw.
"Everything was so swollen. I thought I'd made a huge mistake. But after nine days I had the nose cast removed and realised straight away how good it looked."
"Now I love my nose. When I came back home everyone was telling me that I looked completely different. It felt great," she added. "My sister Chloe's boyfriend Connor looked at me three times before he realised it was me."
"Now I find it hard to imagine what I looked like before the facelift and nose operation. Going through my old Facebook pictures I realise how much I have changed and how lucky I am."
Zara Hartshorn reveals that relationships were a tricky area since she always lacked the self-assurance. But now she has found love with her boyfriend who is six years older than her.
"With Ricky it's never been an issue. Before my surgery I don't know if I would have had the confidence to start a relationship with him," said Zara Hartshorn. "He's seen pictures of me before and told me I was beautiful, but I wouldn't have believed him."