A 15-year-old girl in China has been offered £56,000 worth of surgery by generous strangers to resolve the condition that makes her look decades older than her actual years.
Xiao Feng has been given a new lease on life after Good Samaritans teamed up to cover her medical bills, so she can finally feel and look like the 15-year-old girl she actually is.
The teenager has been bullied throughout her life due to the excess wrinkly skin that makes her look decades older than her true age. This left Xiao Feng feeling terribly insecure and inferior in comparison to others her age.
According to surgeons from Shenyang, Sunline Plastic Surgery Hospital Xiao Feng has progeria, which is a rare genetic condition that occurs in an estimated one in eight million births and it causes people to age prematurely.
The condition, which has only affected Xiao Feng’s skin, not her organs, was passed on by her mother who also suffers from the condition.
The medical bill for the surgery was donated by kind strangers, as they raised over £20,000 for the teenage girl who they knew truly deserved to feel just like everyone else.
To make Xiao Feng look younger, Dr Shi Lingzhi, who is head of the hospital, said that the surgeons had to remove excess skin which measured a total of seven centimetres (2.7 inches) thick from her.
The medics also had to reshape the teenager’s nose, eyebrows and mouth to reveal a youthful complexion.
The surgical operation took place on December 29 and was attended by 10 surgeons, three anaesthetists and five nurses, according to the hospital.
Eventually, the hospital decided to cancel Xiao Feng’s medical bill of 500,000 yuan (£56,000) because the management came to the decision that the money raised by the public to fund the girl would be more beneficial for her to use by focusing on her recovery and future studies.
Today, Xiao Feng met with the public for the first time to reveal her face after undergoing the procedure which took place last month, after seven and a half hours of surgery.
She was presented to the public by the hospital at a press conference in Shenyang, the provincial capital of Liaoning.
Xiao Feng had not even seen herself yet, as the medics had not given her permission to look into the mirror after the operation.
After seeing her new face, she was overcome with emotion and cried on stage, hugging her parents in shock at such a transformation.
“Today is the happiest day for my daughter,” said Feng’s father, Wang Hongde.
Mr Wang, who is a farmer, added: “The night after Xiao Feng’s surgery was the night when I slept the soundest because I believed that doctors could cure my daughter’s condition and help her live and study happily in the future.”
The teenager was born to a less-fortunate family in Heishan county of Jinzhou city in north-eastern China’s Liaoning Province.
She had never taken a selfie before the surgery and would not socialise with others her age.
She said: “Nobody wants to play with me, and only pigeons are willing to accompany me because they won’t dislike me or think I am ugly.”
When Xiao Feng was only one-year-old, her father noted that her skin was starting to sag across her body and as she grew older, the condition worsened.
Earlier this year, she graduated from middle school and decided to stop pursuing further education. Instead, she stayed hidden at home, terrified at the idea of classmates staring at her.
Described as a “quiet” and “gentle” girl, Xiao Feng enjoys putting makeup on her face – only when she’s completely on her own.
Xiao Feng, desperate for a normal life, wrote a letter to philanthropist Guo Mingyi, which stated: “I am 15 years old, but I have the face of a 60-year-old. How I long to look like a high school student.”
She hoped that the philanthropist would help to raise the funds necessary for her to have this surgery so that her looks could be improved.
Her father informed Xinhua News Agency: “When she was in her primary school, she was often mistaken for “the parents of pupils”; and whenever she went to the town with her mother, people would surround them, look at them and discuss about them.”
Only last month did Mr Guo, who is the deputy chairman of All-China Federation of Trade Unions, arrange for Xiao Feng to seek medical attention from Sunline.
It was agreed by the hospital that she would receive a 70 per cent discount for the surgery and to help her cover the rest, Mr Guo organised a city-wide charity event for the girl on December 7.
He brought Xiao Feng and her family to the streets to collect the donations, and in just one day they accumulated 40,000 yuan (£4,290) from the public.
A charity marathon was also organised by Mr Guo, which involved over 1,000 joggers showing their support and encouragement for the teenager.
In total, the runners raised more than 150,000 yuan (£16,000).
Dr Shi said that she and her staff were more than happy to help Xiao Feng because they are “capable of doing so”.
Progeria, the ageing condition, typically ages a person’s organs as well as skin. Which gives hope to Xiao Feng’s “unfortunate family” as it appears only their skin has been affected by the condition.
Currently, Xiao Feng is recovering from the surgery at home and is looking forward to celebrating the upcoming Lunar New Year with her family.
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Aimee is a Media & Communications graduate from Birmingham City University with a passion for everything related to cats, milkshakes and Oreo-flavoured consumables. You will often find Aimee typing furiously equipped with a Greggs’ sausage roll and a gingerbread man.