The Smallest People In The World - Wednesday 12 December

Real Life: The Smallest People In The World Wednesday 12 December, 9.30pm

Real Life: The Smallest People In The World looks at the lives of some extraordinary American kids – Danny, Hannah, Bradley and Bri (tonight at 9.30pm on TV ONE). They are primordial dwarves, the smallest and rarest type of the 200 types of dwarfism. So rare, they are only an estimated 100 in the world – 40 live in America.

Primordial dwarves are characterised by tiny stature, high-pitched squeaky voices and a limited life expectancy. Rarely do they live beyond 30. Their syndrome is due to a recessive gene and they are all born to average height parents, who both, often unwittingly, carry this rare and unidentified gene. The doctors openly admit they know very little about the syndrome and primordials are often not diagnosed till they are five-years-old by which time they have often been pumped full with growth hormone which has no effect.
“Primordial means fundamental, from the seas of time,” says Dr Scott, an American genetics professor, “and the parents have a lot of guilt and questions such as why did this happen; will this happen again; what illnesses will they have; and how long will they live. The answers to these questions are that we just don’t know.”

Made by award-winning British documentary-maker Jane Treays, The Smallest People In The World follows Danny as he attends regular school and grumbles when accompanied by his aide. Her job is to get him on and off the school bus and keep him safe from being crushed during the day. But the 16-year-old wants to be free and date girls. His last date was Desiree who he took to the Christmas Dance in 2004. “It made me very happy because here was a girl who wanted me for who I was.” Danny has not dated her since, but keeps their photograph by the toddler size shoes and tux he wore for the occasion.

When asked how long he thinks he will live, Danny says with a big grin: “I don’t know, but I’ll take what I’m given. I’d like 60 or 70 years, just like everybody else.”

Hannah is 10 and hates her teeth as much as she hates being small. She has little, pointy, diamond shaped teeth, characteristic of all the primordial dwarfs. “When she comes home from the bus, tired and has been teased again about being tiny, she knows she’s different,” admits her mother Jackie, who adopted Hannah at 10 months believing she had a failure-to-thrive baby. She continues, “These kids are in this huge world and this huge world isn’t going to shrink to them so they have to react to this. But how can you live like this and be happy?”.

Bri Jordan is very probably the smallest person in America. At 16, she measures 69cm and weighs 7.3kg. Doctors recommended that her mother, Christy, put her in an institution at birth but Christy refused. “I was her mother and I loved her regardless”. When she was pregnant again, this time with Bradley, Christy “prayed for him to be big and then prayed for him to be little. If he’s big then life is easier for him, if he’s little he’s got his sister to play with.”

Bradley has been raised with confidence and wants to be a basketball coach when he’s older. Bri wants to meet a regular guy and have three or four kids. So far, no primordial dwarf has ever got married, fathered a child or got pregnant, and doctors fear a pregnancy would kill them.

Watch tonight’s Real Life documentary, The Smallest People In The World, to see first-hand what it’s like to live your life when you’re smaller than a toddler – the reality of life for primordial dwarves living in a big world.

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