Zara Hartshorn is 16-years-old, but she looks like a 60-year-old woman. The resident of Rotherham, England was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder that causes early on-set wrinkles and sagging skin.
The young girl began showing visible symptoms at four-years-old when children began teasing her with names like “monkey” and “granny.”
Strangers have looked at the young girl with confusion, believing she is the mother of her 17-year-old sister. In one particularly embarrassing case, she was kicked off a bus for attempting to ride in a child’s seat.
After years of torment, Zara Hartshorn is finally receiving help from a doctor in the United States. Speaking to Britain’s Channel 5, she says:
“I’ve carried some hurtful comments with me all my life but now I feel ready to leave the past behind and forgive and forget. Before I had surgery I was picked on for looking different. Now I look the same as other girls my age.”
Zara received her life changing surgery after lipodystrophy expert Dr. Abhimanyu Garg of University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas heard of her story. Dr. Garg performed genetic testing on the teen and her mom. The women originally believed they suffered from lipodystrophy, a condition that leads to the loss of fatty tissue in the face that typically occurs much later in life. Genetic testing however revealed that the women actually suffer from cutis laxa, an even more rare condition that causes a loss of skin elasticity. Cutis laxa can also lead to lung, heart, and joint problems and a shortened life expectancy.
While Dr. Garg can’t cure the disease, he did provide the 16-year-old girl with a free face-lift and nose augmentation.
Understanding that her life expectancy may be shorted, Zara Hartshorn says she will go to college and open a beauty salon.