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A sports therapist was urged not to look in the mirror due to a facial deformity but now feels "lucky" after life-changing surgery.
Aaron Hedgecock, 29, was born with a cleft lip – an opening in the upper lip – which needed to be sewn up in a major operation when he was just four-months-old.
Despite undergoing the surgery, his mother was told at Hull Royal Infirmary afterwards that he "shouldn't really look in the mirror or anything like that" as there were still signs of deformity and it would be too distressing.
Now 29, Aaron remembers his lip being a target for bullies and it seriously impacted his self-esteem at school, Hull Live reports.
Aaron said: "I suppose growing up I would always look at it in the mirror and be super self conscious and it has overlapped into adulthood.
"At 10-years-old I had my reconstruction surgery which saw a bone graft from my hip to the top part of my lip operated on to support the joint.
"But between the ages of 10 and 14 my lip really started to ride up and you could tell because my nose would start to pull and that's when it would look disfigured.
"I was super self-conscious and there were comments in school but you learn to live with it like any other deformity really.
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"Going through school with kids not understanding fully what a cleft lip is, or any kind of deformities really, which leads to bullying."
Aaron then went through one final surgery to reduce scarring at Hull Royal Infirmary with Dr Nick Hart, which he described as "life-changing".
"It’s always there, it’s just a scar now really but when I had my operation at 14 and I started to grow into adulthood that’s when it got much better," the 29-year-old said.
A massive sports fan, Aaron's second surgery stabilised his jaw after fears that it could collapse when playing sports such as rugby.
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He says times like these is what inspired him to start a career in sports therapy which has saw him work with celebrities, treating and training cast and crew from productions such as Marvel and Warner Brothers.
Aaron has been fundraising for his surgeon Dr Nick Hart's charity, Overseas Plastic Surgery Appeal which operates in Pakistan and Cambodia.
Aaron ran the equivalent of almost two marathons in two days to aid the appeal.
He said: "In less developed countries like Pakistan and Cambodia who have limited resources and poorer healthcare systems, disadvantaged children in poverty with cleft clips and facial disfigurements are left without a potential life saving and life-changing surgery.
"Because of the way they look growing up with an open cleft and lack of education and beliefs surrounding this little imperfection, they are taunted and bullied and ostracised from their communities and families.
"I was lucky enough to have a fantastic NHS plastic surgeon Mr Nick Hart who was lucky enough to sew me up not once but twice."
Aaron has raised almost £2,000 for the charity. His fundraising link is still open and you can donate by clicking here.
- Plastic Surgery
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