For the last few years, media outlets have been covering the sad story of a now 15-year-old British girl with a rare condition that has caused her to prematurely age. Instead of appearing as a typical teen, Zara Hartshorn looks like a 45-year-old woman in clothing much to young for her.
Zara has been speaking about her condition to raise awareness and in the hopes that bullying and discrimination against her would stop.
Most recently, the UK's Daily Mirror featured Zara last month. She talks about the trials she faces looking like a middle aged woman on the outside but feeling like a teen on the inside. Diagnosed with a genetic form of lipodystrophy, a condition where fat is redistributed in a way that makes the patient appear older, Zara and some of the other women in her family are aging before their time with teeth falling out and needing collagen injections to combat wrinkles.
Since the fat is deposited in areas other than where it should be, it can lead to other health complications as well. It is estimated that this condition affects 1 in every 10 million people worldwide.
Here are some of Zara's thoughts in The Mirror:
She said: “It’s impossible to get a child’s ticket at the cinema and when I wear my school uniform people think I’m in fancy dress.
“Growing up with lipodystrophy has been really hard.
“Children started being cruel to me when I was at primary school, calling me ‘baggy face’ and ‘granny’.
“I’ve been physically assaulted at school because of how I look so Mum took me out of school for a term when I was 10 after the bullying got so bad.
“It wasn’t until secondary school I found a group of friends who accepted me for who I was, not how I looked.”
But outside school many people refuse to believe she’s so young.
Zara said: “I was once refused a child’s bus ticket in front of everyone. I went red, got off and walked home. In my first week at one school the teacher handed me a lesson plan. I said, ‘I’m not a teacher, I’m a pupil.’
“I’ve never felt so on the spot in my life – I just wanted to die.
“The same thing happened a year later when I changed teachers.”
Zara went on: “My teeth seem to be really weak and even though I brush regularly I’ve lost four already.
“Two are at the front, which makes me very self-conscious and I don’t like to smile with my mouth open.”
Zara's mother, Tracey, told The Mirror she was devastated when she realized the condition was passed down to her girls, older men are attracted to girls far younger than they realize. She did say she is pleased her daughters know how to handle themselves.
Zara said she hopes to have plastic surgery someday to have effects more permanent than that of collagen injections.
Read more about Zara and see photos of her in The Mirror here.
In 2010, when ABC News first covered Zara's story, it said her dream was to walk down the street feeling -- and looking -- young again. Watch this ABC report of Zara a couple years ago: