"Anna, watch out, this one’s headed for the top corner." Her friend makes a short run and kicks the ball toward Anna's goal. Anna holds up her arms and catches the ball—swiftly and surely. Until a short time ago, 15-year-old Anna could not have stretched so high to catch the ball. She would have been too short by a few crucial centimeters.
Short, sad, seething
Anna still remembers what it was like to be too short. "One time I wanted very much to ride on the carousel at the fair. To be allowed on the carousel, I had to either be at least ten years old or be a certain height. I was already 12 years old, but I was too short. The operator refused to let me on the carousel. That made me sad and furious at the same time," says the teenager. "A person's height is only a first impression, but it influences people. Short people are often underestimated."
For many years Anna was the smallest child in her group. She always had to fight for recognition because other people underestimated her. While some of her friends grew to be as much as two heads taller than her, Anna's body simply stopped growing. Finally, the specialists' diagnosis confirmed the suspicion—her bone age was lagging three years behind her calendar age. Today people still estimate Anna’s age as younger than she actually is, but she is significantly taller than she used to be. After she decided to undergo hormone treatment about two years ago, her body grew by eight centimeters in only a few months. So far she has grown a total of 15 centimeters. Anna will have to take hormones until she turns 18.
Anna always had a witty response when people made silly jokes about her height. In contrast to her physical development, her mental development has been faster than that of children in her age group. Anna's verbal acrobatics have always amazed her friends and made them quickly forget her short stature. But when it came to fashion, Anna could not keep up with the other girls in her class. "I always had to buy my clothes in the children's department, where they only had things printed with comic figures. It was a ridiculous feeling. My taste in clothes had matured, but my body hadn’t." Today Anna goes shopping with her girlfriends in chic boutiques.
But it wasn't only the friendships with her classmates that were important to Anna; she also got lots of support from her older sister Sarah and her mother Andrea. Anna used to like to go on walks hand in hand with her mother, Andrea Maier recalls. "One day I suddenly noticed how big her hand was. All at once we were about the same height," she says. "The hormone treatment had quickly made my cute kid into a teenager in the throes of puberty." Teenagers typically like to rebel against their parents. In this case, the change in Anna's growth also had an impact on the close relationship she had enjoyed with Andrea, a single mother. "After the first phase of the therapy, I was finally able to let Anna go," says Andrea, adding, "It was like winning the lottery. At that point I knew that a treatment was available and that Anna would grow." Her daughter laughs, remembering how difficult it originally was for mother to suppress her protective instinct. Anna's increased height brought with it a new self-image. "Mom no longer had to take care of me all the time," she says.
Before, it was the everyday things that used to irritate her. For example, when her mother rushed to the cupboard to get down a cup she couldn't reach. Or when her mother packed Anna's bag when she took too long to do it. Because her body had been rather small before the treatment, Anna had little physical strength. While her friends went to parties, she stayed at home and went to bed early because she simply needed a lot of sleep. After Anna had regained her strength, she started to play the trumpet with enthusiasm. However, because her lung volume was still very limited, the instrument was soon gathering dust again. But now the rapid growth has made Anna's body more resilient: She now has greater lung volume and thus the strength to play her trumpet loudly.