“Do you want to be taller?” That’s the loaded question that 27-year-old Ellie Simmonds asks an eight-year-old boy receiving growth hormones on the NHS.
The triple gold medal-winning paralympian swimmer is, understandably, concerned that we’ve been putting our energy into developing drugs designed to “eradicate dwarfism” instead of learning to celebrate – and accommodate for – physical differences. If I found myself struggling with the issues then it’s no wonder the poor eight-year-old looked overwhelmed, then embarrassed, before admitting that, yes, he did want to be the same size as his classmates.
Simmonds’s interviewee is being offered a choice she never had to make. Last year, Vosoritide, a once-daily injection, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use on children over five years old with achondroplasia. That’s the condition behind 80 per cent of cases of dwarfism, including Simmonds’s. It affects one in 25,000 births each year and can cause bowed legs and curved spines among other issues. Vosoritide is currently undergoing trials in the UK and looks set to become available on the NHS next year.
In this unflinching documentary, Simmonds met families taking part in the trial. A model presenter, she kept her strong opinions in check while listening to those with opposing views.
I enjoyed hearing about Simmonds’s prejudice-busting life story. Her “normal sized” parents embraced her difference, and supported her ambitions in the pool. She underwent four “minor” operations to correct her bow legs but has been “fit” and “athletic” since childhood. She thinks that, had she been offered Vosoritide as a child, she would have refused it.