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Meet the Vietnamese man who went through 'excruciating' surgery to reach new heights

By Khanh Ly   March 15, 2017 | 03:44 pm GMT+7

Hoang Tung Anh says all the pain was worth the extra 3.5 inches.

Hoang Tung Anh was never happy about his height. For the record, he was 1.67 meters tall (five feet five inches), a little above the average for Vietnamese men.

In 2012, after spending a lot of time researching leg stretching surgeries online and overcoming his trepidation, the young man in Hanoi decided that he wanted one for an extra nine centimeters (3.5 inches). He was 19 at the time.

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Hoang Tung Anh, 24, at the present with his new height. Photo by VnExpress

The painful limb lengthening surgery was once reserved for the purpose of correcting unusually short or abnormal limbs, but in recent years more young people have turned to the complex procedure simply for aesthetic reasons.

The procedure normally begins with doctors breaking the patient’s shin bones and inserting a telescopic rod into them.

Over time, as the bones heal, the rod pulls the bones apart gradually, by around one millimeter per day. As the bone is stretched, new bone, nerves, arteries, and skin grow to fill in the gap.

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One of the 300 photos Anh keeps of the procedure

The arduous procedure takes around three months, followed by several months of physiotherapy for the patient to recover completely.

Doctors themselves describe the pain as “excruciating” and they do not recommend the process unless necessary.

But Anh was determined.

He underwent the first surgery at the 108 Military Central Hospital in Hanoi in early February 2012.

Then came another surgery three months later.

After that, he mostly had to stay in bed for two and a half months, in pain. Then he started learning to walk again.

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He said the whole procedure cost him around VND80 million ($3,500), not to mention the costs for therapy at home.

The man, now 24 years old and 1.76 meters tall, can walk normally and carry heavy things of up to 40 kilograms.

After Anh shared his story and pictures of the procedure, many people questioned his decision even though a few praised him for his strong will.

Even before the surgery, he was not short by the Vietnamese standard.

The average height of Vietnamese adult women is 1.53 meters and for men it's nearly 1.64 meters, making them the fourth shortest people in the world, only above those in Indonesia, Bolivia and the Phillippines, according to a report by the Telegraph.

Doctors at the military hospital said Anh was among the first five patients undergoing the procedure there. All the other patients are doing well, they said.

“I have no intention of promoting limb lengthening,” said Anh. “I just want to share my experience with anyone who wants it.”

Recalling the months of pain, the man said he never had any regret.

"It was a wise decision," Anh told VnExpress.

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