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For most of her life, Taina Martinez was wracked with anxiety about venturing outside — scared of the horrified stares and mocking laughter.
The 17-year-old New York City native was born with a rare combination of facial and head anomalies that impacted her ability to see and eat — and left her looking different from everyone else.
“I couldn’t go outside that much because a lot of people would just stare at me. Sometimes people kind of laughed at me,” she told The Post on Thursday.
But now, after receiving a life-changing reconstructive surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, Martinez will start off 2021 with a new face — and a brighter future.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “I get to spend this whole new year connecting with myself and gaining more self-acceptance.”
Since birth, Martinez has grappled with several debilitating facial disfigurements, including a left cleft lip and palate deformity, and a rare craniosynostosis syndrome that affects the shape of the skull.
She underwent her first surgery at just 4 1/2 months — and has gone through at least 12 other procedures since, her family and doctors said.
At the age of 9, Martinez had an invasive surgery in which doctors attempted to bring parts of her face forward. It required her to wear a large metal device on her head for several months after.
“It was not easy at all. I was in a lot of physical discomfort,” she recalled.
In fact, growing up in general wasn’t always easy, the teen admitted, saying “there were times when I struggled.”
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