Gage Berger, 6, received cosmetic surgery after he was teased relentlessly for his protruding ears, which classmates reportedly called “bat ears” or “elf ears.”
“I just don’t want to be made fun of,” Gage, who attends school in Salt Lake City, Utah, told Inside Edition.
Gage’s parents, Tim and Kallie Berger, noticed he would push his ears back in the mirror to see what he’d look like.
“He just gets really down on himself and he thinks, ‘I’m not good enough,’” Kallie said.
Worried about the effect bullying would have on Gage, his parents took him to Dr. Steven Mobley, a facial plastic surgeon in Salt Lake City.
Gage underwent a two-hour procedure to pin back his ears, NY Daily News reported.
Gage couldn’t be happier with the change, but cosmetic surgery can be a daunting prospect — especially for a young child.
“It is not unusual for a child to have ear surgery at a relatively young age,” Dr. Tracy Pfeifer, a plastic surgeon, told NY Daily News. “The surgery is relatively simple and it is life-changing in a positive way for these young children.
“ … While in an ideal world children would not be bullied, plastic surgeons know all too well that children with abnormal looking ears are bullied and made fun of in school and this has a tremendous negative impact on their self-esteem.”
Steven J. Pearlman, MD, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, agreed that bullying can have serious long-term effects on victims.
“It’s harder to make friends, so they become socially stunted,” he said. “They are also perceived as less intelligent by peers and even adults. If you look at cartoons depicting individuals of lesser intelligence, they are often drawn with big, protruding ears.
“By the age of six, the child is old enough to understand they are being bullied and can participate in the decision for surgery.”
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over 63,000 cosmetic surgical procedures were performed on teens to correct concerning physical characteristics in 2013, NY Daily News reports.
Sources: Inside Edition