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Sooo, like... What happened?

by: Courtney Simross


To the outside world, I am different. Something is wrong with me. I am not normal, and that can't just be. People can't just settle with that. They need an explanation. They need a reason. Simply existing is not enough. Something must have happened. 
I can always sense when this question is going to surface. Someone who I am meeting for the first time is having troubles with wrapping their brain around my appearance. They stumble across the words like "disability," "short," or "difference," but then out it comes like word vomit-- "So.. what happened?" 

I didn't eat my vegetables.
I sneezed too much as a baby. 
I have gigantasophobia (the fear of tall people). 
A heavy object fell on top of my head. 
I'm under a spell. 

I sold my growth plates on the black market.    Actually, nothing HAPPENED. I feel like breaking out in Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" when someone asks that stupid and borderline-rude question. Asking what happened infers that I WAS normal, and now I am not. This actually reminds me of when a doctor of mine met me for the first time, reviewed my chart, and said: "So I notice that your height seems to be a little shorter than average. Has it always been this way, or is this recent?" 

Have you always been a b***h? Or is that recent too? Please excuse my language, but are you sh*****g me?! In the 39485039458 years of medical school you went through to become a doctor, you never once learned about dwarfism? Please tell me I am the first and only little person you've ever met, and that you haven't traumatized more of your patients with your utter lack of bedside manner. Please tell me that your license to practice has been revoked. And please understand that I have left your office because you are the biggest idiot I have ever met in my life. End rant. 

There are a million better ways to ask me what happened, besides "What happened?" How about...

"Is there a reason for your short stature?"

"I'm curious. Would you mind explaining your condition to me?" 

"Is your condition genetic?"

"Is there a specific name for your disability?" 

(But whatever you do, if you have any sense of self-preservation, do NOT begin with "No offense..." No. Just no. Later post.)  

Any variation of any of those questions will convey to me that you would like to know about my dwarfism. I honestly understand. I get it. Some people have never experienced dwarfism outside of fairytales and Disney movies. I may be the first little person they have ever seen, and I am more than willing to educate them. Believe me, after 19 years, I have the speech down. 

I was born with Achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. Over 200 types exist, and mine is the most common. I have short arms and legs, an average torso, a slightly larger head, bowed legs, limited extension of my elbows, and other minor joint issues. My family (shoutout to my parents on their 30th wedding anniversary today!) is average stature, and actually about 80% of dwarfs are born into average families as well. During conception, a mutation occurs on Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 3, which is located on the 4th chromosome. On average, this affects about 1 in every 14,000 births. I can pass my condition onto my children, and those chances vary depending on who I conceive with. I live my life similarly to anyone else and can do just about anything I want, with occasional accommodations. 

Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. 

That's what happened.