More Than 20 Years After She Was Born, This Woman Is Still Mistaken For A Child

Michelle Kish has 20 years of life under her belt, but the rest of the world doesn’t see her that way. Instead, “People assume that I am a lot younger than I am,” she told the BBC. And there was a good reason why.

The Kish family hails from Bartlett, Illinois. Parents Mary and Brad welcomed their eldest daughter, Sarah, and later became pregnant with Michelle. Mary reported that her second pregnancy had gone off without a hitch, as did her delivery.

But, when the couple’s second baby arrived, doctors informed the Kishes that there was something wrong with their newborn daughter, Michelle. To make matters worse, they were unable to diagnose what exactly was plaguing her.

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The hospital had to bring in a specialist from another medical institution to help the Kish family. The geneticist who eventually diagnosed her had never seen anyone with Michelle’s condition in real life before. However, the physician did recognize some of her features from her medical tomes.

The Kishes then found out that Michelle had something called Hallermann-Streiff syndrome. This is a genetic disorder that affects just one in every five million people and only appears every fifth generation. “I was pretty much devastated,” Mary admitted.

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Those with Hallermann-Streiff syndrome – numbering just 250 at the time of Michelle’s birth – have a set of highly recognizable facial features. Mary described them as “frontal bossing of the forehead; a recessed chin; small, beak-like nose; [and] a small airway.”

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On top of that, Hallermann-Streiff syndrome can also cause eye problems, ear canal constriction, skin atrophy, dental problems, hair loss and dwarfism. In total, Michelle said that there are 28 defining characteristics of the genetic disorder – she has 26 of them.

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Although doctors knew the name and symptoms of Michelle’s condition, that was about all that medical professionals could tell the Kishes. Mary recalled to Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, “It was unknown what her prognosis was going to be. They couldn’t tell us because they had never seen it before.”

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So, the Kishes brought their daughter home from the hospital and into uncharted territory. Michelle’s sister, Sarah, recalled on the BBC that her sister “was sick a lot when we were younger.” Michelle agreed, describing the hospital as “a second home.”

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In spite of all this, though, Michelle grew up to become a woman of whom her family are, understandably, very proud. Mary described her as “smart as a whip, happy as ever. She’s one of the happiest 20-year-olds I know.”

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But Michelle’s physical features haven’t matured with her over her two decades of life. Instead, she said, many people mistake her for someone much younger than her 20 years. “I think they do, when they ask my age,” she said.

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But, to the 20-year-old, the case of her mistaken age wasn’t the most bothersome aspect of her condition. “The most annoying thing is being small because there’s a lot of rides that I want to go on,” she said. “I can’t because [of the] stupid height restriction.”

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“Another annoying thing is that with my [breathing equipment] I can’t go underwater,” Michelle added. She dreamed of diving in because “[I’d] like to be a mermaid,” she said. From her mom’s perspective, though, there was another glaring issue that Michelle wasn’t quick to acknowledge.

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“[What] Michelle struggles [with] the most, without admitting it – she’s lonely,” Mary said. “Kids are nice to her, but she’s never really developed friendships like her older sister has [with] kids her own age,” the mom-of-two added.

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And then, of course, there was the issue of a boyfriend – Mary said her daughter wanted one. Michelle wasn’t shy to admit it that, either. I want one really bad,” she said, adding, “I would look for, in a boyfriend, long hair. Period.”

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Of course, the joy-filled 20-year-old finds contentment in life as it is, boyfriend or not. And her family feel lucky to have her there, too. “She lights up people’s lives,” Mary said. “If someone’s having a bad day, you don’t even have to say a word to her.”

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According to Mary, Michelle “[will] say, ‘Mom, are you okay? Is there something I can do? You know I love you.’” She will even approach strangers who appear sad to greet them and cheer them up.

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Michelle’s caring nature could just help her to achieve her dreams for the future, too. The 20-year-old said, “My dream job is being a pediatric doctor in an E.R.” But she has two other career paths lined up in case that doesn’t work out – fashion design and acting.

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Of course, the sobering reality in telling Michelle’s story was the fact that her prognosis is still murky. “[Her] long-term outlook […] is unknown at this point. We’ve had several close calls,” Mary said.

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But, on the whole, “[Michelle is] fairly healthy,” Mary said – and “tough as nails,” her father, Brad, added. With that and her positive attitude, Michelle’s story seems like it is just beginning. “I think I’m different from the average 20-year-old, but that’s okay,” she said.

 

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