When facing off against bullies, some children and parents are going under the knife.
As was the case for 11-year-old Bella Harrington, who underwent pediatric cosmetic surgery in December because she says bullies at her school were tormenting her about her protruding ears.
Bella and her mother Sabrina made the decision to finally silence the bullies after years of considering the procedure, known as an otoplasty, which pins back the ears.
“When people would ask if I would like to go swimming in the summer I’d be scared they’d show,” Bella recalled about getting teased.
“They were being mean, saying different things,” Sabrina said. “One thing they said, she had elf ears.”
Dr. Joe Niamtu, who practices in Midlothian, performed the surgery, calling it his “biggest reward” to help students like Bella.
“It was my honor to help this beautiful young lady to escape the effect of peer bullying from her protruding,” Dr. Niamtu said on Facebook. “Even small facial deformities can produce very negative psychological consequences in childhood that can lead to a lifetime of low self-esteem and negative body image. My biggest reward.”
In fact, he told WRIC that the younger the patient is the better the outcome and it is not uncommon for children as young as 4 years old to go under the knife.
“We like to treat these children before they enter school, so it’s not uncommon that I’m doing 4- or 5-year-olds,” Dr. Niamtu said, adding, “And the reason is bullying or peer pressure. It’s been shown to psychologically to have the ability to affect their self-esteem or body image for the rest of their life.”
Now two months after the surgery, both Bella and Sabrina are overwhelmed with the positive results.
“I was so happy,” the child said, remembering the first time she saw her new ears. These days, Bella puts her hair up often and is not “focused on if people can see” her ears.
“It’s no different than getting braces, that changes your appearance,” Sabrina said. “If it’s going to make you feel better about yourself, so be it.”