A young woman who lost half her face when a freak childhood accident triggered an ultra-rare condition can finally look at herself in the mirror.
Yasmin Butler, now 22, was just seven years old when she was accidentally hit in the cheek with a metal toy by a friend.
It sparked a neurocutaneous syndrome affecting just 500 people in the world which meant her bones failed to form properly.
Yasmin was left with half a face with no cheek bones on her left side and suffered ten years of cruel jibes from playground bullies who called her a ‘monster’.
But now, after seven rounds of reconstructive surgery and regular filler injections, she can finally face face herself in the mirror – and is looking for a boyfriend.
Shop worker Yasmin said: “I had come to terms with the face I had, but it was hard when strangers would react horrified when they saw me.
“I wanted to be like every other teenage girl, but I was different.
“But thanks to the hard work of skilled surgeons I can finally look in the mirror.
“Surgeons have given me a new face, not for vanity, but because it had literally collapsed.
“Now I get to be a ‘normal girl’. Everyone deserves that right.”
Yasmin was playing with a friend in 1999 when she was bashed around the head by mistake with a metal toy.
She said: “At the time no one was worried but gradually an indent formed.
“It wasn’t until I got hit on the head by a swing two weeks later that the real issue presented itself.”
The left side of her face began to sink inwards, at first losing all definition in her cheek before eventually becoming hollow.
She said: “Doctors jumped to conclusions, thinking I had cancer or bone loss. No one could pin-point the problem.”
Over the next two years her face continued to collapse and experts at Great Ormond Street children’s hospital finally diagnosed Parry Romberg Syndrome.
The rare condition, which affects fewer than 500 people worldwide, is caused by progressive shrinkage and degeneration of the tissues beneath the skin.
She said: “It was so rare that there wasn’t much information on it, I just had to take every day as it came.”
Yasmin’s condition worsened at secondary school and she recalled: “Each time I looked in the mirror the left side of my face looked more sunken and droopy, people were beginning to stare at me.
“Even though I was young, I noticed and felt self-conscious – as if I didn’t belong.
“To cope in school, I’d make jokes about my face first so people wouldn’t mock me. It worked, I never got bullied.”
It was only when she stopped growing around the age of 17 that doctors prepared to start the long and painful process of reconstructive surgery.
By then her face was completely unsymmetrical and her left eye drooped so low that she could not see properly.
She said: “One complete stranger looked at my face and said ‘don’t come near me, I don’t want to catch that’.
“They made me feel like some sort of monster. I would go home at night and cry.”
Yasmin was referred to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, Sussex where they started the rounds of plastic surgery.
She said: “I decided to get my eye fixed and that was it.
“I was not going to be a person with a plastic face.
“I had resigned myself to the fact I would never be beautiful and thought the op was just for practical reasons.
“But my face had lifted dramatically and for the first time in my life I saw a glimpse of beauty.
“I stroked my face in disbelief and tears rolled down my cheeks.”
Yasmin, from Hastings, East Sussex, then had six more reconstructive surgeries over four years.
She is now finally happy with her face – and hopes to find her first ever boyfriend.
Yasmin is due to go back to surgery in September to have a synthetic jaw bone fitted – which will hopefully be the last surgery.
“I look in the mirror and smile. I never thought I’d be able to feel so happy.
“I’ve never had a boyfriend because of a lack of confidence. Now I feel hopeful for the future, whatever it brings.
“Cosmetic surgery can get a bad name, but for people like me, it’s helped me get the face I was supposed to have – but was robbed of. I feel very lucky.”