You might say seven extra inches is not enough to undergo painful operations but to Llinos Edwards, the pain was what growing for.
Miss Edwards, 20, was born with genetic dwarfism achondroplasia and stood at just 4ft and 3in when she stopped growing aged 14.
The student opted for controversial NHS leg-lengthening treatment, in which her thigh and shin bones were broken and stretched 1mm a DAY with metal frames.
After five years her legs stretched from 18in to 25in and she is standing taller at 4ft 10in.
In my early teens I always felt differeMiss Edwards from Wrexham, Wales, is proud to be wearing adult-sized jeans for the first time.
But her journey is far from over because she is planning more limb-lengthening surgery on her ARMS in the future.
She said: “It has been an exhausting journey, but worth every painful moment.
“In my early teens I always felt different, unable to walk long distances or exercise because of my short legs.
Edwards’ legs have stretched over the last five years
“To some people 7 inches may not sound much, but I feel like I’ve fought so hard to wear the size eight jeans I now wear with pride.
“It has been gruelling, but I was determined to see it through.
“While the braces were fitted and tightened on my legs I was reliant on friends and family to push me in my wheelchair and at times couldn’t dress or shower without help.
“Everything that normal teens do, like going on nights out, learning to drive and dating, took a backseat while I focused on getting through this treatment.”
At one day old, Miss Edwards was diagnosed with achondroplasia – a genetic form of short-limbed dwarfism that controls cartilage development in the arms and legs.
It meant that, while her intelligence and life span would not be affected, Miss Edwards would only grow to approximately 4ft and her limbs would be short compared to her torso.
Her parents Jill, now 54, and Gwyn, 54 and sisters Catrin, 21, and Seren, 14, did not carry the gene.
Miss Edwards said: “For a long time I didn’t notice I was different to any other children because they were little like me.
“It was only as I got a bit older, maybe age seven or so, when I became aware of it.
“Though I had a supportive group of friends and family, as I got older I became convinced people were laughing at me in public.
“Medics had mentioned the idea of leg-lengthening surgery to make me taller, but it was too dangerous to perform until I’d stopped growing.”
By the age of 13, Miss Edwards’s short legs meant walking long distances was uncomfortable.
She recalled: “Entering my teens was hard. The limitations of my shortness became more obvious and while my friends began to develop into young women, I still resembled a child.
“I knew that there were worse conditions in life than mine, but – like any teenage girl – I longed to fit in.”
At 14, having stopped growing and she became eligible for NHS bone-lengthening surgery.
In August 2011 she went under the knife at Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital and, in one five hour op, medics broke both her femur bones, then just 23cm long.
Metal rods were inserted in the bone, with a frame attached and fitted outside the skin with screws for tightening.
With each twist of the screw, the metal inside her legs would stretch a minute amount, lengthening the bone.
Llinos explained: “Waking up and seeing my legs encased in the metal frames, I felt like I had a huge recovery journey ahead of me.
“We were given an Allen key and doctors showed my mum how to tighten the rods, stretching my bones by approximately 0.5mm at a time.
“The first twist was agonising, I couldn’t image how I would endure it twice a day for months on end.”
Over the next 10 months, Miss Edwards’s mum Jill, 54, tightened her daughter’s frames in the morning before she went to school and 0.5mm in the evening.
What’s more, Miss Edwards was issued with a large-wheeled chair to accommodate the sizeable leg braces, but this style of chair meant she was reliant on being pushed around by friends and family.
She recalled: “The loss of independence was really hard, harder than the pain in some ways.”
(This article was first published on Express)