By Andy Lin
myFace, a nonprofit organization known as the National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction, created to help people from all over the country with plastic surgeries—enabling them have a better life, despite their looks—presented an amazing assembly at Great Neck South Middle School.
Similar to the medical condition Auggie Pullman experienced in the book and movie Wonder, the assembly focused on facial disfigurement, which can cause trouble eating, drinking, breathing and many other disabilities.
“One in four kids with facial disfigurement have been bullied in school based on how they look, do and speak,” explained the myFace presenter. “Kids with facial disfigurements get bullied by their fellow students very often in school. Regular students, without facial disfigurements, don’t know how kids with facial disfigurements feel on the inside.”
Anibel, a 14-year-old student and myFace patient was born with many facial disfigurements, including a very small face. She is unable to eat with her mouth and must be fed through a tube connected to her stomach. A silly photo was shown of her wearing clown makeup, but it’s no joke that she had 22 surgeries by the time she was 10 and has now had a total of 26 surgeries.
At school, people stare at Anibel. Other students look at her, especially when she goes to the bathroom or is fed through the tube every three hours.
“Even the teachers would look at me when I ‘eat’ with my tube in my stomach,” she wrote in her diary.
Anibel feels the teachers and some of the nurses judge her for her differences, as she has another tube in her throat to help her breath since her nose is too small for oxygen to flow to her throat.
She breathes through her throat and into her lungs directly, so she loses warmth easily and cannot go out in cold weather. She has never even played in the snow.
Luckily for Anibel, she is getting a face expansion soon.
“In a couple of months, Anibel can hopefully breathe with her nose and eat through her mouth,” the presenter said.
Anibel doesn’t want to miss any important learning opportunities and plans to have this surgery in the summer, so she can recover during the break and go to school next year.
During the fascinating presentation, the speaker told a brief summary of how Wonder author R.J. Palacio got her idea to write the book. One day, when Palacio and her children sat down to enjoy ice cream at a local parlor, she saw a young child with facial disfigurement and shielded her sons from seeing the young child.
That night, she thought about the situation. She realized that she should have explained facial disfigurement to her children and told them not to make fun of kids who have the medical condition.
Later, in an interview, Palacio said that one of her biggest regrets was not explaining the situation to her children that day in the ice cream parlor. That night, she came up with the idea to write a book about children with facial disfigurements and facial deformity.
Palacio later wrote the touching, well-known book Wonder. She worked hard every day until 2 or 3 a.m., editing, revising and even rewriting the book.
Bullying is a problem in Anibel’s school. In fact, bullying occurs in every school. We learned that while we cannot wipe out bullying in every school, we can certainly prevent it.
“Don’t be a bystander when someone is getting bullied, be an upstander and stand up to bullies,” said the presenter.
While everyone has been bullied, nobody likes being bullied. It is up to us to change our own learning environment and treat others the way we want to be treated. If more people choose kind, the world would surely be a better place. Doing something kind to help others will influence them to do the same. Being kind is as simple as saying, “Thank you.” Start being kind to stop bullying now.
This is the first newspaper article Andy Lin, a South Middle School sixth grader, has written as a Great Neck Chinese Association reporter.