Thoughts after the surgery

Pediatric dwarfism clinic

[Congenital diseases] (1) When I was little, I was bullied because of ..

30 Jan 2023
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(1)When I was little, I was bullied because of my short height



Cha Ji-Young



Our family was totally shocked after the diagnosis of achondroplasia

Hello. I am a 22-year-old female student who has had a rare disease called achondroplasia since birth. I didn’t know that I had the disease called achondroplasia when I was young. But one day, my mom took me to a pediatric hospital because I was suffering from enteritis. Not too later after that, we visited the hospital again because my body shape was a bit strange.

There, the doctor asked about my parents’ physical status and said that I have been born with mutation. After examinations, I was diagnosed with achondroplasia. We didn’t know anything about this disease. The doctor carefully explained to us that this is a disease where the cartilage on the growth plate is deficient and not much height growth is seen. My mom was in big shock and I was also was in huge shock to hear such unbelievable news. I felt resentful about everything and I could nothing but cry non-stop.

The doctor recommended me to get growth hormone shots. So I went in and out of the hospital getting growth hormone shots. In the beginning, it helped me grow 7cm, but towards the end, I didn’t grow much.

I was always no.1 in class because of my short height. I hated myself then. Something I hated even more is that not only the children in my class, but also children from other classes ganged up together to tease me and call me a dwarf. Just because of my height, I was bullied in class and left out, some even started hitting me.

I was really having a tough time. I started being very sensitive to height, and my inferiority complex just grew bigger and bigger as time passed by. Also, my legs started being painful by the time I started school. My legs felt like they were hit by a hammer when I was back from school, I also had trouble sleeping at night as well. The extreme pain in the legs didn’t go away during middle school years either.

In middle school, there were children who were even cursing at me, as if teasing was not enough. One time, there were even kids who wanted the certificate and award I got in a writing contest. When I told them that I didn’t want to give it to them, they forcefully took it from me used vulgar language and told me to get lost because they didn’t want my dirty certificate anyways.

I got scared after hearing those vulgar words used at me, so I usually ran to the teacher who treated me well and counseled me whenever I was going through tough time. She said she wanted to punish those kids so that they wouldn’t do it anymore. But she said she couldn’t because it would only things worse.

My teacher told me that she would punish the kids harshly when they curse at me. But I could not be relieved and was always anxious. I had no confidence to even enter my classroom, let alone the confidence to go to school


I even thought of committing suicide

Children’s persistent teasing and vulgar language continued even in high school. At first they were just staring at me. Butthey started making fun of me in the back row whispering at me. They slowly moved toward me and started teasing me loudly right behind me. They even threatened and teased me telling me to go to a special school since I was disabled

I started getting into depression because it was unbearable. Their teasing and threatening was dragging me into more severe depression and affecting me so much that I even started hearing their voices as if they were teasing right next to me. Eventually, I couldn’t take it any longer and asked my teacher to withdraw me from school.

But when I told her that, she headed to the classroom and started punishing the students. I was actually afraid of telling the teacher because I was scared of the kids.

The moment the teacher left the classroom after punishing them, they came up to me and started picking on me again. But this time it was even worse than ever before. I was so scared that I couldn’t even open my mouth. As you can see, my days in high school were like hell.


I found out about Little People of Korea and appeared on TV

One day, my mother told me about LPK, an association for little people in Korea. She asked me what I thought of attending there. I told her that I didn’t want to go outside since so many people around stare at me and whisper to each other. But she said there will be no one staring at me or picking on me in this association. After my mother’s endless persuasion, I decided to be courageous and attend a meeting.

When I went there, LPK was totally different than what I had in mind. Outside, there had always been someone staring or pointing fingers at me and comparing my height with other tall people. But when I was there, not only everyone was as short as me, but they were also very understanding and encouraging that I could almostpour out my heart to them and feel comfortable and warm.

So I was extremely surprised. Until I started coming to LPK, I thought I was the only person with achondroplasia. But that was not true.

People in LPK were short, yet they were full with confidence and kept their chin up even if people stared at them. I realized that short disabled people have stronger mind than normal tall people. I also got to know many older people who I became close to later on. The camp at LPK came to an end and I had to return to stressful school life.

One day, I got a phone call from a social worker at LPK. She told me that she was worried about me because she noticed that I didn’t have much confidence and had a negative look on life. She said she wants to help me to have confidence and courage. She asked my mom if I could appear on TV. My mom said yes to her with no hesitation. But I told her that I didn’t even want to be seen by people outside, let alone being seen by all the TV viewers. But the social worker and my mom convinced me to agree, saying that being on TV would be helpful for me.

So not too long after that, people from the broadcasting station came to my house and filmed my daily life and my school life. When they were filming at my school, kids were busy watching those people. Even some kids that I didn’t know came up to me to talk, which made me uncomfortable and awkward.

On one of the days when they were still filming about my life, Ms. Kim, Se-Ra, the current head of LPK visited my school. She made a speech about short people and me. After she was done with speaking, she personally gave me courage told me to be confident and hold my chin up and not to be too sensitive even if people stare at me.


I decided to receive the Ilizarov surgery

I had been receiving growth hormone therapy since I was little. It helped me grow, but I was also gaining lots of weight as the side effect of the therapy. I was introduced to Professor Song through the social worker at LPK when I was at the camp. We talked about my disease, and he told me to come to the hospital and get examined.

After MRI, CT, and x-ray imaging, Professor Song told me the result of the examinations. He said my legs were bowed, and that my thickened ankles were what was causing so much pain. He said I needed to be operated. He also said that I was already developing arthritis in my joints at a young age. I listened to him carefully, trying to calm myself down. After he was done with the results, he explained about the Ilizarov surgery in details. Later, he introduced me to a patient who had received the surgery already.

I was rather nervous than scared when I saw the patient with the Ilizarov device on, that I went to the professor and asked him if I really needed to have the surgery. He told me that I had to do it to get rid of the pain in the legs. He calmed me down and consoled me by telling me that it might be tough and painful at first, but that it would get ok as time passed by.

So even though I was scared and anxious, I decided to have the surgery to make body taller and healthier, and signed the surgery consent form.

Not too long after that, my surgery date was scheduled for December 13, 2005. After admission to the hospital, I came to the ward. It was my first hospitalization and I could not get used to it. When I was overwhelmed with endless anxiety and worry, Professor Song came up to our ward. He asked me if I was worried for having my first surgery and told me not to worry too much.


My first surgery – December 13, 2005, Tuesday

Finally came the morning of surgery. I was put to sleep and the operation led by Professor Song started. The surgery, which began at 8:30 AM, was a big surgery that lasted for 8 hours.

I was taken to the recovery room after the surgery. When I opened my eyes, the professor came out of the surgery room and comforted me and asked me if I was okay. Then I was taken back to the ward and Professor Song came by to see how I was doing. He told me that the surgery had gone well. He also asked me to move my toes. So I tried to move my toes as he instructed, but it was really difficult and painful yet. He touched my foot to check if I could feel it. I was relieved that I had sensation on my feet.

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