Parents turn to plastic surgery to raise child's self-confidence and stop bullying

When Samantha Daniels was a baby, she was a dimpled, adorable little girl. And like a lot of babies, one feature was a little out of proportion.
"Her ears were big. Her dad and I noticed, but we never said anything. We'd always say she'll grow into them someday," Samantha's mom, Susan, said.
But as Samantha grew, so did her ears. They began to cause problems.
"She would cry when we tried to put a bike helmet on her. It would hurt her ears so badly," Susan said.
Susan said bigger trouble came later at school.
"Fourth grade is when she came home and said 'They're starting to talk about me at school. Called me monkey ears. Dumbo.' One kid said she had freakishly large ears, when she was in fifth grade. So it started to affect her," Susan said. 

"I hated it because I thought it didn't matter, thought it was fine until people made fun of me," Samantha said.
"She used that word. She came home and said, 'I know I'm being bullied, and it hurts. And I want it to stop,'" Susan said.
So Samantha's parents knew it was time to pursue ear-pinning surgery, a procedure called a bilateral otoplasty.
Dr. Gregory Lakin, Samantha's plastic surgeon, described her appearance.
"Samantha is a beautiful girl but didn't notice because she had such a severe ear deformity. It was as severe as they come,"  Dr. Lakin said.
But the surgery was meant to address more than the physical problem. It was to address her self-image too.

Nancy Gordon, who specializes in adolescent therapy in the Tampa Bay area, said it's important parents let their child know they need to speak up if they are being bullied. And parents need to take action.

"Get that child the counseling to be able to fortify themselves and to generate that self-acceptance. That it doesn't matter what their ears look like. They're still good people and solid people inside," Gordon said.

As for Samantha, about a year ago at the age of 12 she had the surgery and sees it as a huge success.

"I felt beautiful. That's what I really wanted. That's why I did the surgery to feel better about myself. That's what happens, very happy with it, and very emotional," Samantha said.

Because any surgery has risks, there are many factors to consider, including the potential for long-term psychological damage.

Sometimes this type of elective procedure is covered by insurance, but usually it's not.

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