Schoolgirl Emma Richards had both her legs broken and stretched on a metal frame in the hope she would "grow" from a worthless 4ft 9ins to a more respectable 5ft 3ins and so meet the minimum height requirement to become an air hostess. The painful process has left Richards, now 16, at a lowly 5ft 2ins - an inch short of her dreams; so for that all-important final inch she is taking growth hormones.
As a fellow shortie - although I prefer the word petite - and as someone who is at least a couple of inches below the minimum requirement, I can sympathise, to an extent. I wish I were taller virtually every morning, just before I wish I were thinner, just after I've wished for a bigger chest.
There are outfits I will not wear without certain shoes for fear of looking "stumpy". I am paranoid about being patronised and quick to accuse if I think I am being talked down to because of my height, or lack of it. I am fully aware that some people, men more often than women, equate short with incapable and worse still, "cute". I have no shame in admitting I'd love an extra inch or two. I kid myself and anyone who asks that I'm 5ft something, when it's probably closer to nothing (or less).
But would I resort to having six five-inch metal pins screwed into my freshly broken legs and turned four times a day, for four months, to stretch the bone? Grow up. In fact I can't imagine any sane adult choosing to through such a painful process. Worse still, enduring a six-hour operation not because I have a medical problem, but to become an air hostess? For the pleasure of being at the beck and call of hundreds of drunken passengers. For the honour of cleaning up other people's vomit and pushing a tea trolley endlessly up and down the aisle of a 747?
But Richards isn't a sane adult at all, she's a child - a schoolgirl lacking in confidence. If it wasn't her height she was unhappy with it would probably be her weight, skin or lack of a boyfriend. Given the chance and enough love and encouragement from those close to her, Richards might have grown out of her height-related low self-esteem.
But alas, her parents were fully behind the project. "We hope people will understand how important this has been to Emma," pleads her mother, Irene. "We are now hoping the growth hormones will kick in... you never know, she might keep growing and reach 5ft 9ins."
Richards, who was bedridden for four months and lost three stone after her legs became infected as a result of the operation, may not know better, but her parents, short of stature themselves, certainly should. Mother Irene (4ft 11ins) and father John (5ft), presumably know what it's like to feel insecure about their height. Yet, instead of telling their daughter they love her no matter what, they are sending out signals that actually, a few more inches would make the world love her more.
And as for the dream of being an air hostess, the best cure for Richards would be to take a long- haul flight, preferably a charter, during peak season. A few hours of turbulence later - not to mention the smugness of actually being able to fit into the seat - and being under the height restriction wouldn't seem so bad.
Sarah Boseley is away