Barb: Interesting story. An 11-year-old girl said bullying over her looks was so extreme that she was forced to go under the knife. Bella Harrington is from Virginia. She said she didn’t think much of her protruding ears until school bullies started taking notice.
Bella: They would always point it out. At first, I didn’t care about it and then the more people pointed it out is when I wanted to change it. I thought they sticked out way too much. When people in the summer would ask I wanted to go swimming or something, I’d be scared that they’d show.
Barb: Following years of bullying, her family made the decision to consult a cosmetic surgeon to get the procedure done, which pins back the ears. Joining us to talk about this is, because I think it’s an interesting dilemma at that age, and because it’s done as a result of bullying, one of our regular guests, founder of SpaMedica, one of Canada’s top cosmetic surgeons, Dr. Stephen Mulholland. Welcome to the show.
Dr. Stephen: Thank you, Barb. Interesting topic.
Barb: Yes, absolutely. Have you ever had a situation, anything like this?
Dr. Stephen: Well, I was bullied when I was young because I was far too intelligent, so I had to dumb myself down. I was able to solve that personally.
Barb: I’m meaning your clients.
Dr. Stephen: All kidding aside, all kidding aside. It is a sad, sad story and unfortunately or fortunately, this has been around a long time. If you think about our kids, particularly we’re lucky in Ontario with our health insurance plan. Kids born with let’s say, a cleft lip palate, the palate can get in the way of speech, so we fix the palate, but the cleft lip and nose is purely cosmetic and we do fix it because kids are very, very susceptible to self-image issues. All kids call them bullies, call them mean. We tend to pick out truly physical variants, outliers, really outstanding ears, weirdly shaped heads called craniofacial anomalies, or birth defects, vascular birth defects or pigmented birth defects or funny deformities of the fingers or outstanding ears in this case.
Study after study shows that if kids enter school age and get teased, you could call it bullied because that’s politically correct now, but they get teased, it really affects their self-image for years and years to come. In Ontario, if you have outstanding ears, you can get your ears pinned as a child. Before the age of 15, it’s covered by [inaudible 00:02:29]. You can get your cleft lip fixed, your cleft nose fixed. You can get your birth defect that’s quite visible, the big purple ones or the brown ones removed by laser.
We’ve learned a long time ago, and in Canada at least, that these can really affect kids’ self-image and self-worth, and that the healthcare system will pay for young kids with defined abnormalities. We’re not talking about a 13, 14 year old girl who figures that her lips aren’t big enough like Kardashian or her bum’s not full enough. Those are truly self-image issues that adolescents need to work with, but true physical defects, like this young girl’s, which don’t bother her at all until she’s at school age and then she gets teased, and of course, it can create real complexes.
I think that trying to get to the heart of the issue, should cosmetic surgery be part of a teenager’s or pre-teen’s development process? Absolutely not, but if you have a true abnormality, a hereditary or traumatic deformity from an accident or birth, of course it should be fixed because it affects your self-image during those vital years of development.
Barb: Would you consider the ears sticking out a deformity?
Dr. Stephen: I think we have to have measurements. We have under 11 millimeters from the conchal bowl, which is the big salad bowl part of your ear, or 50 millimeters from the tip of the edge to your bone behind the ear is considered normal. If it’s more than that, it’s outstanding, but it’s just a little bit. If it actually is, we’ve all teased kids, I’m sure, kids with Dumbo ears, where it’s just clearly outside the norm. If you send a photo and you write a letter, as a plastic surgeon, it’ll be covered, as it should.
Barb: Great information. Good to know. Dr. Stephen Mulholland, thank you so much for this.
Dr. Stephen: Thank you again, Barb.
Barb: All right. Talk to you soon. Dr. Stephen Mulholland is the founder of SpaMedica, one of Canada’s top cosmetic surgeons.