The bullying began in first grade, when classmates started teasing Nadia Ilse about her “elephant ears.” Even at the age of ten, she was asking her mother for surgery to pin her ears back. But the $40,000 price tag for such an operation was an understandable hurdle. But thanks to an organization called Little Baby Face Foundation, the Georgia teen, now 14, finally put an end to her large ears — and her bullying.
But it didn’t come without years of taunting and teaseing, which had rendered the formerly outgoing kid into an anti-social introvert. Their unkind words “hurt so much,” Ilse told Gupta in the above video. As she got older, she frequently asked for an otoplasty, the operation to pin her ears back, leading Ilse’s mother to come across the non-profit Little Baby Face Foundation. The organization, founded in 2002, offers free operations to children who have been bullied due to their physical appearance, as well as offering free corrective surgery to children born with facial deformities.
The organization brought Ilse and her mother to New York City for the operation. While Ilse’s application to the organization had only requested an otoplasty, the group’s founder, Dr. Thomas Romo, III., also performed a reduction rhinoplasty, reducing the size of the nose to correct a slanted septum, and a mentoplasty, to square off the teen’s chin. Romo felt the additional surgeries were necessary to “balance out” Ilse’s features.
While Ilse is very happy with the surgery, underneath the surgical scars lie mental wounds that no operation can mend. Ilse’s mother told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta that she wants her daughter to enter counseling to help repair some of the psychological damage done by the years of bullying.
Efforts to combat school bullying have escalated over the last decade, according to a report released in December by the U.S. Department of Education. According to the Huffington Post, between 1999 and 2010, more than 120 bills were adopted by state legislatures to introduce or amend legislation that address bullying, harassment or similar behavior in schools.