Extraordinary People: Growing Up Without a Face

Wednesday 13th May 9.00pm

The documentary strand exploring remarkable tales of human experience continues. Five-year- old Juliana Wetmore has the most severe case of Treacher Collins syndrome ever seen. Juliana was born with over half of her cranial bones missing and has undergone 27 operations as doctors endeavour to build her a functional face. This film follows Juliana as she prepares for yet another major operation and begins her education.

Juliana Wetmore is a most extraordinary child. The five-year-old suffers from an extreme condition called Treacher Collins syndrome. Born with a severely deformed face, Juliana has undergone round after round of risky surgery in a bid to rebuild her features and give her the hope of a better life.

In the beginning, mother Tami Wetmore had a seemingly normal second pregnancy. But scans soon made it clear that there were major complications. Doctors were unable to give a clear diagnosis and suggested terminating the pregnancy – but this was never an option for Tami or her husband, Thom. It was this sort of devotion to their child that would sustain the family over the next few years.

Juliana was born in March 2003 and the birth almost killed her mother. The prognosis for the baby was not good. Treacher Collins syndrome occurs in one in 50,000 births. It affects the face and head, and Juliana’s case is the most severe ever recorded.

The little girl was born with nearly 60 per cent of the bones in her face missing and a number of severe abnormalities. These included a sealed eyelid, no cheek bones, no nasal passage and almost no upper and lower jaw bone. Although Juliana’s hearing is restricted, she has good vision in her right eye and a normal-functioning brain.

The first 18 months of Juliana’s life were perhaps the most difficult for her family. Juliana suffered numerous respiratory infections and endured complications after surgery. In her short lifetime, she has undergone some 27 operations as doctors attempt to rebuild her face.

Dr Wolfe, who has operated on Juliana since the beginning, is now ready to undertake another series of operations designed to help Juliana live a fuller life. Tami and Thom’s chief priority is the health of their child. They want her to eat and breathe freely, but they also want her to engage in the same activities as any normal five-year-old.

This documentary follows the next stage in Juliana’s surgical reconstructions, as well as tracing her academic and social progress. Cognitively, she is as bright and capable as any other five-year-old, but the routine of major invasive surgery is an obstacle she must continually overcome. Now, as a milestone operation approaches, Juliana faces another watershed moment – she is about to begin mainstream education. Can the combination of surgery and Juliana’s own innate confidence help her take a massive step towards a normal life?

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  • Anonymous

    Things like this make you realise and appreciate how special you are, and how much life means to you. (:

  • Anonymous

    I lot of people will take offense to what I believe…

    Years ago, this child would never have seen the light of day. It would be taken away from the mother at birth. Prior to that, the baby would have been abandonded by the mother. Further back again, an animal that had babies like this would have killed it.

    As horrible as this sounds, I can see why.

    This child will never have a normal life. Will always be a walking freakshow. If she ever gets ‘better’, it will be because of intervention. Painful, long surgeries costing who knows how much money – money that could go towards saving the lives of probably hundreds of thousands of other children who could be made fit and healthy just with some clean water and good food.

    How much of this childs life is to do with selfishness of the parents, and doctors who want to treat her as a trophy case?

    I know its harsh, and a lot of people will disagree with me. But I can’t see how this girl will ever have a life that will even be close to normal. I feel sorry for her because of this.

  • JL

    My heart goes out to you anonymous. Thank goodness for modern medicine and forward thinkers that overshadow uncaring Darwin thinkers. Here is Juliana’s website….you can witness the life that she is leading, certainly not a waste of life! http://www.julianawetmore.net/index.php
    We all have a different perception of what is normal. Your cruelty is a waste. Who knows what the Lord has instore for her….she might even touch your hardened heart.

  • Howard Stern

    Just a disgusting little SLUT

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