A young woman who had a facelift at 16 because of a genetic condition that saw her nicknamed ‘granny’ has revealed her disorder is putting her life at risk.
Since the age of 12, Zara Hartshorn had regularly been mistaken for a woman in her 40s or 50s, due to a disease she inherited from her mother Tracey Gibson -# who herself was often mistaken for a pensioner despite being just 43.
The mother and daughter, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, underwent matching £50,000 facelifts in the US to address the impact of their condition, which makes fat dissolve beneath tissue, giving the skin a prematurely wrinkled appearance, which Zara says saw her ‘getting called granny and monkey’.
But four years on Zara, who was initially diagnosed with lipodystrophy only to learn she has the even more complicated Cutis Laxa, says the effects of her surgery are already fading.
News of the diagnosis shocked Zara and Tracey and she said: ‘Since I found out I had Cutis Laxa, I have literally done nothing about it. The last time I saw a doctor was in Texas, which isn’t good.
‘My health does worry me, but only when I think about it. Most of the time I’m oblivious to it, which isn’t a good thing.’
Zara was more focused on her appearance than her health, and underwent a four-hour facelift performed by Dr Robert Ersek to shave years off her.
Overjoyed with her new face, Zara brimmed with confidence, and Tracey also had a matching procedure soon after to finally look her age.
But four years on from the surgery, Zara’s saggy skin has slowly returned and a family feud temporarily tore her and her mum apart.
However, Zara’s health is starting to deteriorate and she finally found the courage to contact Dr Zsolt Urban, who has been studying the condition.
Speaking to the doctor online, she was told some devastating news – Cutis Laxa could cause her heart to fail at anytime.
She said: ‘It is actually a serious illness and I’m disregarding it like it’s not even serious. I’m terrified.’
Realising she’d been living in denial, Zara made the brave decision to have a thorough heart scan.
Fortunately, tests showed that Zara’s heart was fine.
She said: ‘I’m buzzing. I’m not going to die.’