RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - For 17-year-old Yasmin Ibrihim, it was a dream come true: a consultation with Richmond cosmetic surgeon Dr. Joe Niamtu was the first step in her highly improbable journey to get her ears fixed.
Since she was a small child, Yasmin's most distinguishing feature has been her ears. Growing up in Egypt, a society where many women keep their heads and faces covered, plastic surgery was out of the question.
When her family immigrated to the United States, she settled in Fairfax High School. With each passing year, her frustration grew and her self-confidence shrank.
"I noticed it when I was 13," said Yasmin. "I noticed that a lot of my peers in school started commenting on my ears and noticing it, which made me really self-conscious."
The peer pressure Yasmin encountered at Fairfax High School was something she didn't know how to handle. The ostracism wasn't just social, it was taking a toll on her school work, because for her, speaking in front of the class was not an option.
"I'm a good speaker, [but] because of my ears, my self-confidence in front of them was not high," said Yasmin.
Although her family didn't have the money to pay for the procedure to fix her ears, she emailed Richmond cosmetic surgeon Dr. Joe Niamtu anyway, explaining her situation.
Niamtu didn't hesitate to help her.
"Something that touched me as a surgeon, and made me want to help Yasmin, was because of people's reactions, and that's certainly a form of bullying," said Niamtu.
The procedure is called otoplasty. It's often time-consuming and exacting – a mix of art and science, since the cartilage behind both ears has to be reduced exactly the same, to create symmetry.
Niamtu also had to reshape the anatomy of her outer ear, the folds of the auricle, to give it a more natural appearance.
It's been three weeks since the surgery – the before and after results are dramatic. Her ears aren't smaller, they just don't protrude anymore. It's changed young Yasmin's life.
"I put my hair up every day. I never did that - I go out with my hair up, like today. It's just the confidence. I feel more comfortable around people, I didn't have that before," said Yasmin.
Copyright 2018 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.