You make stronger when you are bigger

SURGERY: How Marcel got eight centimeters taller

SURGERY: How Marcel got eight centimeters taller

To be bigger - a lifelong dream especially of men who are below the average. One can make this wish come true. But that's quite an ordeal. We accompanied a man who had undergone it.

Marco Lauer

Before everything starts, the dream finally approaches reality, it needs a lie. He is on the road for a day and a night. Professional. For his wife. There should be no more questions now that she could ask him if she knew about his plan. Nothing should shake it anymore. For fifteen years he studied, worked, and saved for it. On this OP. For fifteen years the knowledge that he will have this operation at some point as soon as he has the money together has appeased the demons in his head, in the best of cases, on some days, silenced.

In fact, Marcel D., in his mid-thirties, is not on the road for work, instead drives to Dr. Betz, whom they call King Betz in the forums he attended, Betzi or the best there is in the world.

Marcel D. is sitting in the car, the radio is on, music, news, music, a four-hour drive. When he arrives at the Diakonieklinikum, eight-story on the outskirts of Neunkirchen, a simple town in the east of the Saarland, he feels relief. He takes the stairs, slim and always training, up to the fifth floor, which Dr. Betz has rented for his premises. On the glass entrance door in white letters and capital letters: Betz Institute. Reach New Heights.

Three quarters are men

They come from all over the world. Three quarters of them are men who all share the same desire: to grow bigger because they feel too small to be happy, or at least satisfied. Too small to be successful or to be respected for success. Too small to be a protector. Just the right size to be overlooked. Or all together. The men who made their way to Dr. Looking for Betz are between 1.58 meters and 1.74 meters tall.

Marcel D. measures 1.69 meters when he spoke to Prof. Dr. Dr. Betz arrives. Augustin Betz, a man of over 65 who has been lengthening people since 1994, sinewy arms, light white hair, blue eyes, 1.79 meters tall, greets Marcel D. with a firm handshake. To do this, he taps lightly on the patient's upper arm with his left hand. He always speaks calmly and with the soft, singing Saarland dialect. Everything about him sounds like a spoken nod, like a shock absorber for hard truths. Like the one that you can expect great pain after an extension.

It's nice that we see each other in person now. Your wife doesn't know you're here? No problem. I know. But you should let them in at some point. In Betz ’office there are pedestals next to the desk, five centimeters high, eight, ten. Marcel D. should now please stand on what is his goal, without the shoes with the thick soles. He stands on the eight centimeters. How does it feel? Well. Very good. A feeling he only knows from photos where he always stands on tiptoe.

It all started for Marcel D. with the end of puberty. Then he realized that he was no longer growing. Until then, he had always hoped that there would be another boost. But he remained the little one he always was. Smaller than his schoolmates. Smaller than his little sister. Particularly bad, says Marcel D., was the fact that I didn't feel as small on the inside as I was on the outside.

You have to prepare for a difficult time, says Dr. Betz, if you choose. This is the toughest procedure there is in plastic surgery. But I've done this over two thousand times in the past twenty-two years. You can rest assured that we know what we are doing here. Just, please, do me a favor and don't stop at two inches. Pull it through to your desired size. Even if you want to stop. You will regret enduring this agony and then giving up in the middle.

No, no, don't worry. Marcel D. smiles. I'll do this. After all, this is my big lifelong dream. That's good, says Dr. Betz. We had discussed that you can still talk to patients who have already had the operation behind them. My assistant would introduce them to you if that's okay. And then maybe we'll see each other again soon. When Marcel D. is out of the office, Dr. Betz: With my scalpel I can sometimes solve mental problems better than a psychologist. Because my patients suffer a lot from their small size. Life is more exhausting when you are little. Especially for men.

Is height more important for men than for women? Betz turns his palms over: definitely yes. If a little man has a big car, they say: He must have it. If a short man is particularly assertive, it means: He has an excessive need for recognition. Sarkozy as a famous example, Berlusconi or Gerhard Schröder. If you ask a woman about the criteria for her dream man, you will probably never hear: he has to be short in any case.

When are you small as a man? A good guide, says Dr. Betz, is always the average height of a country: In Switzerland currently 1.78 meters, in Germany 1.80 meters, in the USA 1.81 meters, in Norway 1.82 meters, in the Netherlands, the tallest people in the world, 1.84 meters. In Central Europe and North America, a man is now 1.70 meters tall. Depending on the country, also with 1.75 meters. There, at 1.75 meters, there is a kind of imaginary limit that you should cross in order not to be considered small.

35,000 euros per leg

Marcel D. would be 1.77 meters in the end. On the way home, he feels the future size. The decision has been made. No thought of pain. Just looking forward to the completion of his dream. For 35,000 euros per leg, the long saved price.

It is the day of the operation. It starts at eleven o'clock. Marcel D. is pushed into the operating room. After a few minutes he goes into general anesthesia.

He arrived the day before with his wife and son, three years old. Two weeks after his first conversation with the doctor, he told her that he was not traveling for work, but with Dr. Betz. Don't do that, honey, she said. You are crazy. What shoud that? I always found you okay for who you are. Why did you never tell me about it? - I didn't mean to burden you with this, honey. With my problems and the demons in my head because of my size. - Why don't you try to see a psychiatrist first? Who knows if you will ever be able to walk properly again afterwards? And 70,000 euros? We live here on fifty square meters for rent. - I know sweetheart. I know. But there is no other way.

Betz, white face mask, gloves, cuts a small hole in the back of the left hip, where the thighbone, the longest bone in our body, ends. Then use a tiny special saw to go down through the cavity inside the bone to the point where he wants to cut it - a third of the way between hip and knee. Gently begins to saw the bone, from the inside out. Try to destroy as few vascular structures as possible.

Constructed like a car antenna

Then comes the nail, called a «telescopic nail» - the key to growth. Betz attached the nail to the upper end of the bone with two cross screws, placed it over the severed area, and fastened it a hand's breadth underneath with another cross screw. Constructed like a car antenna that extends and enlarges the gap between the sawed bone by one millimeter per day towards the knee. That is why the nail alone supports the patient's upper body during the extension and afterwards.

Only at the end of the lengthening does the bone begin to grow in the gap. It takes about seventy days per centimeter to do this. With eight centimeters extension, a good year and a half.

When the nail is anchored on the left leg, Betz repeats the whole procedure on the right. It takes over three hours to finish. The foundation for growth has been laid.

Sun and blue sky over Neunkirchen. Room 519 of the hospital is darkened. A week has passed since the operation. Marcel D. is sitting on the edge of his bed. Tired. Next to him is a fellow patient from Saudi Arabia who had an operation five days before him and who is always whimpering. Marcel D. speaks softly. I've slept a total of five hours in the past five nights. Three days after the operation, Dr. Betz clicked for the first time. It was hell. A day later I clicked for the first time myself.

Fifteen clicks gives a millimeter

If they talk about clicking, they are talking about the mechanical process that triggers the elongation. Fifteen clicks per day per leg results in a millimeter of growth. Now the next time is due. Marcel D. shakily puts his hand on his bent knee, takes a deep breath, presses his mouth together and closes his eyes. Then he pushes the thigh firmly outwards once, as if he had to stretch the inside. A faint clicking sound in the leg. In addition, loud moans.

The worst, however, is the way back, which only completes the click. Before that he needs a minute to overcome. Then he pushes the leg in the opposite direction until it clicks, louder this time. The scream that escapes him is even louder.

His wife went home the day before yesterday and his son has to go to kindergarten. What can I say? I wouldn't have imagined it to be that bad. It's like a dark hole that I'm sitting in. This morning, shortly after getting up, when it is the worst, my thighs are sore and stiff like blocks of wood, I asked myself: What kind of shit have you maneuvered yourself into? 7.7 centimeters to go. Thirty more clicks for each of seventy-seven days. 2310 painful steps to the desired size.

He leaves the clinic two weeks after the operation. His wife picks him up. So far he's been on vacation in the Canary Islands - at least for employers, parents, siblings, friends. At the end of the vacation, he will say, he suffers a double fracture on each leg in a serious traffic accident.

His mother cries on the phone when he calls her and tells her about it. And then he says: O my boy, that you always have to have such bad luck. But will it be again? Yes Mama. That will be again.

Nobody except his wife should find out about the operation. Not now and not later. No way. This is my dream. It's nobody's business. I didn't peddle how I suffered from my size.

Visit to Marcel D. in the small apartment of an apartment building complex on the outskirts of a small town in southern Germany. It's going up. Marcel D. already measures 1.74 meters. Another three centimeters. He's sitting on the couch. I hope it's okay if I put my legs up. As if by itself, it has not grown in the last two months.

The pain of clicking remained - even if he had cushioned it. His days were always timed in the same way. A maximum of one and a half hours of sleep at a time. Because the tension in the legs is greatest when he is lying down. Then get up, walk on crutches. Sitting on the ergometer. Movement against the stiffness of lying down. Another hour and a half of sleep. Get up at nine o'clock. Or at ten. Exhausted. Click. Even more exhausted. Physical therapy. In between moments of little happiness. Smiling head shaking in front of the mirror or next to the measuring tape. Even so, he thinks about the end of the click every day. The completion of growth.

As is so often the case, the anticipation is the best

And then it is there, the day of the new life. He had so many plans for it. Buy new pants. Preferably with people all day. Screaming with happiness. That was how he had imagined it from the start. But it doesn't happen that way. As is often the case in life, anticipation is the most beautiful. Because the development of joy takes more time than the brief moment of the present. And it wasn't like that, says Marcel D., that a fairy came and I was allowed to wish eight centimeters. I've grown into it over the weeks. Parents don't even notice how their children grow up because they see them every day.

He only does one thing on the first day: He applies for a new identity card - with the new size in it. Towards evening he locks himself in the toilet for a moment. And cries. It is actually done. The first night he slept for six hours. The next morning he drives to work. He still walks with crutches.

Nobody notices anything about him. Some say nice that you are back. All the explanations he'd devised were superfluous. The fear of not being believed. That he would be made fun of if it got out. Superfluous. A burden falls from him. At the same time, however, disappointment rises deep within him. That it wasn't even noticed by those who were only a little taller than him and whom he has now overtaken. Perhaps also because few know of the possibility of an extension. And what cannot be does not exist.

Only once, when a friend, with whom he, his wife and his son was walking through the park, tried to wipe a sheet of paper out of his hair, she asked him: Have you grown up somehow? He laughs out loud, almost relieved that someone has noticed: Yes, yes, it would be nice.

One last meeting. In a pizzeria in an industrial area outside the city. He no longer has crutches. His gait is still a little stiff. Otherwise nothing reminds you that it was once eight centimeters shorter. A new life? Happier than before? Oh, what does happy mean? Before that, I wasn't always unhappy. But I did it. And that was important.

The new size is mainly in the head

Do people perceive him differently now? I can't judge, says Marcel D. But I don't believe it. Those who didn't know me before don't know either that I've grown up. To be honest, I don't really feel physically bigger myself. Sometimes I notice when I'm in the bathroom or picking something up from the floor that my statics have changed a little. And I like my legs a lot now. Because I always found my thighs too short - in terms of proportions. That fits now. I bought half a dozen new pants. That was great. Otherwise, the new size is mostly in my head.

Would he do it again? Despite all the pain? Yes. Naturally. In any case. I've long since forgotten the pain. He pauses and smiles. I just feel a little empty sometimes. There is no longer a big project. Whereby, there will be one final highlight: The nail will be surgically removed when the last millimeter of bone has grown behind. I'm looking forward to it, it will be my final farewell to the damn 1.69 meters.