- Ibrahim Alğan paid nearly $27,000 for an operation to lengthen his legs.
- The 30-year-old told Insider he hates being short. “When you’re small, you start off 1-0 down.”
- After his leg lengthening surgery, Alğan set up a clinic in Turkey offering the same procedure.
As a school counselor, Ibrahim Alğan’s job was to help young people solve their problems. However, he couldn’t solve his own: a serious altitude complex.
The 30-year-old Alğan comes from the southern Turkish city of Adana. He was 5ft 2 and had strong feelings about his size.
“When you’re shorter, people don’t take you as seriously as a tall person,” he told Insider. He said he didn’t feel confident enough to help students at his school.
“I firmly believe that charisma is one of the indispensable traits in leadership,” he said. “When you’re small, you start off 1-0 down.”
Alğan said his colleagues joked about his height at least once a week. He said he felt tall people were more popular around him and had more opportunities. “They were more advantageous both in personal relationships and in recruitment,” he said.
He said he never forgot his first girlfriend telling him she wished he was taller and said snide comments have “always stayed” like “a wound in me” throughout his life.
So he researched methods that purported to help a human grow taller. He took powders and pills to get bigger. He played basketball, swam and jumped.
“I used to hang out at a bar minutes before bed almost every night,” he said. “I have used reflexology insoles which are said to stimulate height growth.”
Nothing worked except shoes with hidden heels that made him up to 3 inches taller. But they weren’t enough. “It was like a false dream,” he said. “Every time I took my shoes off, I was faced with reality again.
“My obsession grew every day.”
“My life’s work”
After two leg lengthening surgeries, Alğan added 5 inches to his height.
He didn’t tell anyone about his first surgery in February 2015 because he thought they wouldn’t understand.
It made him 2.4 inches taller. When people took notice, he said he had a bone deformity and would need surgery to correct it.
In March 2020, he had a second surgery that added another 2.4 inches to his height.
A 2020 review of cosmetic limb lengthening surgery outcomes found that the most common complications were deformation of the newly formed bone after treatment was completed and stiffness or deformity of the joint connecting the foot and ankle. The same study concluded that the procedure had a “low rate of serious complications” but needed more guidelines about who should and shouldn’t go under the knife.
Alğan said the surgery changed his perspective so much that he quit his job as a consultant and set up his own clinic in Turkey offering leg lengthening surgeries. He is the lead coordinator and his team is mostly made up of other people who had the surgery.
“I realized that there were many people who wanted to have this surgery in Turkey, but didn’t have many opportunities to get advice or even more insight into the leg lengthening process,” he said.
His clinic, Wanna Be Taller, charges between $23,850 and $51,850 depending on whether the patient wants to grow 3, 4, 5, or 6 inches.
He said he wasn’t considering running a leg lengthening business before undergoing surgery. “My only goal – I could even call it my purpose in life – was to get bigger.”
A new group of patients
Leg lengthening surgeries have been a hot topic in recent months. It was originally used to treat people with legs of different lengths, but is now used by patients who want to grow taller.
Kevin Debiparshad, a Harvard-trained surgeon known as one of the world’s leading limb and leg lengthening surgeons, said the procedure involves severing the leg bones — either the femur (thigh bone) or tibia (lower leg bone). .
“I make four to six tiny, small incisions in the leg and create a window to access the hollow part of the bone, where I insert a device that responds to an external remote control that the patient controls at home,” Debiparshad called.
Using the remote control, the patient increases in size by 1 millimeter daily after the operation, mostly without pain.
He told Insider that increased media coverage and reduced stigma surrounding cosmetic procedures has opened up the procedure to a new group of patients.
“Traditionally, most of my patients are younger, short men trying to increase their height. However, we see many older patients, people of average height, female patients and even those who want size reduction surgery,” he said. “This latter group includes people who are transitioning genders and want their bodies to more closely match their self-image adjusts.”
“Now I can see myself as a real adult”
Alğan said his life has changed “dramatically” since he grew up.
“I used to feel like a kid when I put on a suit, but now I see myself as a real adult,” he said. “I hear the phrase ‘this outfit suits you’ a lot and it affects me positively in many aspects of my life.”
He likes that he doesn’t have to look up when he’s having a conversation, which means he can “think healthier and make better decisions.”
He said his new role as head of the clinic has similarities to his old role as a consultant: “I support people who have mental health difficulties to grow.”
“People don’t joke about my height anymore,” he said. “As a leader, I don’t think there is anything more valuable than the confidence I have now.”
Correction: January 8, 2023 — A previous version of this story incorrectly stated how much Wanna Be Taller charges for his operation.
Editor’s note: January 9, 2023 — The third bullet point of this story has been updated to reflect the fact that Ibrahim Alğan founded a clinic offering leg lengthening surgeries after undergoing the same procedure himself. The story has also been updated to include details from a 2020 study of the most common complications associated with the procedure.