A yoga teacher from dwarfism was born to teach yoga. She revealed how she had limb lengthening surgery at the age of 14 to stretch her body.

Kristen DeAndrade (36), was diagnosed with rare genetic condition, achondroplasia dwarfism. This prevents bone growth in legs and arms.

She was just 12 years old when she decided to have terrifying bone-breaking surgery in order to stretch her legs. 

A yoga teacher who was born with dwarfism has revealed how she underwent limb lengthening surgery as a teenager to stretch her body 14 inches (pictured as she is today)

A yoga teacher who was born with dwarfism, has shared the story of how she had to have limb lengthening surgery when she was a teenager in order to stretch her body 14 inches. (pictured as she is today).

Kristen DeAndrade, 36, suffered from the rare genetic condition achondroplasia dwarfism which prevents bone growth in the legs and arms (pictured at the start of her surgery, age 12)

Kristen DeAndrade (36), was born with rare genetic condition achondroplasia dwarfism, which prevents bone growth in the legs or arms. (Photo taken at the beginning of her surgery, age 12).

The author, from West Palm Beach, Florida, US, shot up from 3ft9 to 4ft11 after four years of surgery (pictured aged 16)

After four years of surgery, the author, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA, shot up to 3ft9 and 4ft11 (pictured at 16).

The author is from West Palm Beach, Florida. Her height ranges from 3ft9 to 4″11. However, her decision has caused controversy within the dwarfism community.

Kristen stated, “I saw the surgery a way to live a more functional, independent existence in a world designed for people of average height.”

“Achondroplasia caused a lot of medical problems for me as a child, such as ear infections.

“I struggled to navigate public places. Toilets were too high and I couldn’t reach light switches.

Kristen's struggles as a child were key in her decision to go ahead with limb lengthening surgery

Kristen’s struggles with her childhood were key to her decision for limb lengthening surgery.

“My school had to adapt everything to me, so I had my own table with little boxes that would help me get up from my chair.

Kristen’s struggles with her childhood were key to her decision for limb lengthening surgery.

She discovered Dr Paley, a specialist in limb lengthening surgeries who operated in the Maryland Centre For Limb Lengthening And Reconstruction.

Kristen underwent her first limb-lengthening procedure in June 1998.

Kristen is now an advocate for the procedure and a motivational speaker and has written a book, Little Legs, Big Heart

Kristen is now a champion for the procedure, a motivational speaker, and has written a book, Little Legs, Big Heart

Kristen defends her decision as she is now able to navigate the world like everyone else despite criticism from some quarters

Kristen defends the decision. She is now able, despite criticism from some quarters, to navigate the world as everyone else.

Kristen went through her first limb lengthening procedure in June 1998 after deciding to undergo surgery aged just 12

Kristen had her first limb lengthening operation in June 1998. She had decided to have surgery when she was just 12 years old.

The procedure was repeated several times over the next four years.

Kristen had her bones broken and external fixators were used to help extend the healing bone. 

To break the leg bone, a hole is made. A rod of metal is then inserted and secured by screws. 

The rod is gradually lengthened until the patient attains the desired height. Once the bone has healed, the rod can be removed.

She said, “I was around 12 when I had my initial surgery.”

They stretched my lower legs, the tibias and first, to six inches.

‘Dr Paley actually straightened my legs when I had my legs shortened. They were bowing outwardly.

“Then, I had four inches on both my arms.

Thanks to her surgery, Kristen now works as a yoga teacher and has delayed or solved many of her limb problems

Kristen is now a yoga instructor and has been able delay or even solved many of her limb problems due to her surgery.

The surgery involved Kristen having her bones broken, with external fixators added to help stretch out the healing bone

Kristen had to have her bones broken. External fixators were used to stretch the healing bone.

Aged 29, Kristen lost the feeling below her waist and had to undergo surgery again with Dr Feldman (pictured right)

Kristen, now 29, lost her feeling below her waistline and had to have surgery with Dr Feldman again (pictured right). 

How limb-lengthening works

Limb-lengthening allows for the extension of bones in the arms and legs. 

It is a gradual process of increasing the length of both bones as well as soft tissues (skin and muscles, nerves) over time. 

The leg bone is broken in two places before a state-of-the-art telescopic rod is implanted into the cartilage of the bone.

The orthopedic device is then gradually adjusted to pull apart – usually at a rate of one millimetre a day –  so that it slowly separates the two bone segments.

The new living bone grows to fill the gaps and increase the length of each limb. However, it will not be considered ‘healed until the regenerate bone has hardened.

Muscles, nerves, arteries and skin also renew themselves.

Source: limblength.org

“Dr Paley corrected the hip joint deformity I had when I had my legs lengthened, particularly the femurs.

During her arm surgery, the doctor corrected an elbow problem that allowed her arms to hang down at her side.

Kristen claimed that her arms grew four inches and that it relieved chronic pain. 

Kristen said, “Each month my limbs were stretched an inch more, and then there would be an extra month of consolidation.

“It took four years of back to back procedures and healing.

“In that time I had to learn to walk again and to love my scars.

Kristen was finally able, after her first procedure, to reach the kitchen counter. She was able to learn how to cook and help mom in the kitchen.

At 16 years old, after her limb lengthening had ended, she celebrated by getting her driver’s license.

Kristen, age 29, lost sensation from her waist down unexpectedly and was diagnosed with spinal Stenosis.

Dr David Feldman, at the Paley Institute, performed surgery to help her regain feeling in her legs. 

However, not everyone agrees with her decision that she should be taller.

She stated that there are some people in dwarfism who consider it to be cosmetic surgery.

“They told me that I should love my body as it is and that I shouldn’t be ashamed of wanting to be like everyone else.

Kristen defends her decision, as she is now able navigate the world just like everyone else.

Kristen's parents Lynn and Joe (pictured) are both of average height and supported her decision

Lynn and Joe, Kristen’s parents (pictured), are of average height and supported Kristen’s decision. 

During the surgery on her arms, the doctor corrected an elbow deformity which allowed her arms to hang down at her side and rest comfortably

During her arms surgery, the doctor corrected an elbow problem that allowed her arms hang down at her side.

She stated that she knew from a very young age that she wanted to have the surgery.

“Both my parents Lynn, aged 73, and Joe, age 70, are of average height.

“They supported me from the beginning in my decision making.”  

Kristen’s experience with limb lengthening, achondroplasia, and limb lengthening made her a strong advocate for the procedure. She has also written a book, Little Legs, Big Heart. 

She said, “The surgery was my view into a future.”

‘A future where you are independent and have the ability to navigate a world of average size without pain.

“Adults with dwarfism tend have a lot more health issues, and after I’ve limb lengthened, I’ve delayed many of those problems.” 

What is Achondroplasia? 

Achondroplasia refers to a form short-limbed dwarfism. Achondroplasia literally translates to “without cartilage formation”. The problem is not with the formation of cartilage, but rather in its conversion to bone, especially in the long bones in the arms and legs.

People with achondroplasia are all short. The average height of an adult male suffering from achondroplasia, is four feet four inches. The average height for adult women is four foot, one inch.

Achondroplasia has the following characteristics: a small trunk, short arms, legs, and particularly short upper arms. There is limited range in motion at the elbows. The head is larger with a prominent forehead. 

The fingers are usually short and the ring and middle fingers may be different, giving the hand a triangular (trident-like) appearance.

Achondroplasia can lead to a variety of health problems, including episodes where breathing becomes difficult or stops for short periods (apnea), obesity, recurrent ear infections, and episodes when breathing slows down or stops completely.

Source: nih.gov.