TEENAGE identical twins Stephanie and Melanie Smith are two inches taller than they were in November.
The 16-year-olds, who live with parents Howard and Lee and brother Oliver in King Edward Street, have undergone a little-known operation at Great Ormond Street to increase their height by up to four inches.
During their stay at the London children’s hospital, they met top pop groups Westlife and S-Club 7 and appeared in the national press.
Both the girls, information technology students at Canterbury College, have a rare condition known as Leri Weill Syndrome, a form of dwarfism that affects the legs and arms. Before the operation, they were both around 4ft 7in.
The surgery, a technique pioneered in Russia in the 1940’s, involves breaking the bones above the knee and leaving the middle section “floating”.
As that section grows to repair the fracture (at 1mm a day), it is kept from re-joining the bones by a series of bolts and screws which have to be turned every day.
Melanie and Stephanie meet Westlife
By MATTHEW SILK
Becoming taller was the stuff of the twins’ dreams. But the decision to have the operation means they will be in Wheel chairs for almost a year.
“I had mixed feelings about it at first,” said Stephanie. “The surgeon, Robert Hill, told us how painful it would be. He is superb. All the staff at the hospital are.”
“It does hurt and of course It’s hard being in wheelchairs. It’s difficult to keep busy all the time but mum, dad and Oliver have been brilliant.”
“But It’s just one year out of our lives and it will make such a difference.
“I stood up recently and, having already grown quite quickly, the room looked so different.”
Melanie added: “This will change our lives. If you’re below 4ft lOin, many of the everyday things are out of reach. You can’t get things in the kitchen, you can’t drive.” The girls have been chatting to others who have had the operation across the world through the Internet.
During their stay at Great Ormond Street, they were invited to take part in a GMTV programme, and one of their favourite groups S Club 7 were special guests.
“They were brilliant. They came to talk to us off-screen and gave us autographs,” Melanie said. And the pair could not believe their luck when boy band West-life turned up at the hospital that same afternoon.
“They came to our ward. There was only us and one other girl In there, but suddenly the place was filled with 20 people! “We got our albums - and a kiss.