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Australian politician has leg-breaking height surgery in Russia


MOSCOW, April 30 (RIA Novosti) - An Australian politician has admitted to undergoing "excruciatingly painful" surgery in a Russian clinic to increase her height.

Hajnal Ban, a councilor in the state of Queensland, was forced to admit to the operation after The Courier Mail identified her on Tuesday as the author of a book, written several years ago under a pseudonym, entitled "God Made Me Small, Surgery Made Me Tall".

Israeli-born Ban, 31, travelled to the west Siberian city of Kurgan eight years ago for the $40,000 operation, which lasted nine months and raised her height from 154 cm (5 ft 1) to 162 cm (5 ft 4).

Doctors at the Ilizarov Scientific Centre for Restorative Traumatology and Orthopaedics broke her legs in four places, and extended the bones at a rate of 1 mm per day.

The grueling procedure involves sticking steel pins into the bones, fixing them to metal frames around the legs, and rotating screws each day to stretch the bones apart. The operation involves severe pain, and a constant risk of infection.

Many clinics refuse to carry out the operation on purely cosmetic grounds, due to the high risks involved.

Several Russian celebrities are known to have had leg-extending operations at the Siberian center, including the pop singer Vika Tsyganova.

Ban complained to the Brisbane Times of constant media harassment since the story emerged.

"Media are camping outside my mother's house so I'm just in hiding at the moment," the Logan City councilor told the paper.

"This is purely a personal matter. I don't know what all the fuss is about. I just want this to go away," she said.

Describing her experience in Russia to British newspaper The Times, she said: "From the time I flew to Russia to the time I was able to wear high heels again was about a year in total, but at least nine months of that was excruciatingly painful."

Ban wrote her book under the pseudonym Sara Vornamen, five years before unsuccessfully standing for election in the 2007 federal polls.

"I chose to go under a pseudonym because it's a private decision and I didn't want to be ostracized," the Courier Mail quoted her as saying.

Explaining her decision to undergo the drastic surgery, she said that at school she had been called a "midget", and that in adult life she felt her short stature was harming her credibility.

"I get tired of people focusing on the physical side of me because I feel like I have a lot to offer and I'm a qualified lawyer. I'm educated and I think people don't tend to focus on that," she told the paper.

The Brisbane Times, however, said that although Ban "claims to be a barrister," she is "not listed with the Bar Association of Queensland."

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