Zara Hartshorn, 16-Year-Old That Looks Elderly, Suffers Cutis Laxa And Received Incredible Face Lift [VIDEOS]

By Staff Reporter on June 25, 2013 12:14 PM EDT

Zara
Zara Hartshorn receives consultation for a face lift. Zara suffers from cutis laxa, a rare genetic disease. (Photo: YouTube)

Zara Hartshorn of South Yorkshire, England, is 16 years old, but a rare genetic disease is causing her appearance to look significantly older. In fact, strangers even mistook Zara Hartshorn for her sister's mother.

A rare condition known as cutis laxa is causing Zara to suffer the deterioration of fatty tissues, connective tissues, and bones under the skin. As a result, the excess flesh and wrinkles around Zara Hartshorn's jaw line creates an abnormal appearance of premature aging.

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Cutis laxa is a rare genetic condition that only affects about 2,000 people worldwide. In fact, doctors initially misdiagnosed Zara Hartshorn's condition as lipodystrophy, more popularly known as "reverse Benjamin Button disease." The initial symptoms were discovered by Zara's physician when she was only 4 years old.

Zara Hartshorn inherited cutis laxa from the genes of her mother, Tracey Gibson. When Zara was diagnosed, Tracey reassured her daughter Zara that she was beautiful despite her condition.

"Mum explained that I had an illness like she did," Zara Hartshorn said, "but that I was beautiful and shouldn't pay any attention to what anyone said."

Unfortunately, Zara was a victim of unsympathetic bullying when she attended school. Hartshorn recalled not only being called "granny" or "monkey" from other children, but even punched and kicked for looking different. "It got so bad, I stopped going to school for awhile."

However, switching to other schools did nothing to improve Hartshorn's self esteem as she was even mistaken as a teacher. "I was even mistaken for a teacher in school on a couple of occasions, which was just mortifying in front of my classmates," Zara confessed.

In an attempt to improve to reverse the cutis laxa condition, Tracey Gibson took her daughter to receive collagen injections in hopes that her treatment would tighten her skin for a more youthful appearance. Unfortunately, the collagen turned into hard lumps.

Eventually, lipodystrophy expert Dr. Abhimanyu Garg, M.D. of Texas learned about Zara Hartshorn's condition and decided to reach out to plastic surgeon Robert Ersek, M.D. for a face-life and rhinoplasty for Zara. The procedure would be a life-changing milestone for Zara.

"I realized how life-changing it could be, but I was still so nervous about how it would turn out. The night before the operation I couldn't sleep because I was so excited."

When the bandages were first removed following the plastic surgery, Zara Hartshorn was alarmed with the results. Thankfully, the swelling from the surgery subsided, revealing a significantly improved face.

"Everything was so swollen. I thought I'd made a huge mistake. But after nine days I had the nose cast removed and realized straight away how good it looked."

While the plastic surgery will not reverse her cutis laxa, Zara Hartshorn now has the confidence to pursue a normal life. Hartshorn looks forward to attending college and opening a beauty salon.

"I remember the unhappy little girl who was bullied, and I want to go back and tell her it will all be all right. Now when I look in the mirror I can see opportunities that weren't there before."

Watch the videos below to learn more about Zara Hartshorn's condition.

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