Identical twins who were born looking very different could finally look alike thanks to plastic surgery.
Gabriel Cooper was born with Pierre Robin syndrome, which meant his jaw did not fully form – leading to a facial disfigurement.
After 19 years of looking different, Gabriel is preparing for plastic surgery, which could make him look identical to his brother Haidin.
Gabriel, who lives in Alabama in the USA, says, ‘Even though we look different on the outside, we are still twins on the inside.
‘I’m obviously different from Haidin, but I would just say I’m unique because of this condition.
‘I think I realised I was different when we were around 12 – it’s not just that I look different – I have to go to the doctors a lot and he doesn’t have to.
‘There are psychological problems also – to this day, I don’t like taking photos of myself, never have.’
The devastating condition was spotted while the twins were in their mother’s womb and she was given the option to terminate Gabriel.
‘I had to think for two months about keeping him,’ says Ramona.
‘It wasn’t that I had a problem with him being disabled but I feared that one twin could grow to despise the other.
‘The boys have had their problems, but I’ve never regretted keeping Gabriel – he is a wonderful son.’
Gabriel tries to stay positive despite a lifetime of being made the subject of ridicule because of his appearance.
‘I walk in to a store and a child will look up at me and make fun of me, other children they just stare and don’t say a word,’ says Gabriel.
At school, the boys would often be involved in fights because of cruel jibes.
Haidin explains: ‘Other kids couldn’t figure out how to treat Gabriel because he looked so different. They thought it was cool to provoke him. Thinking back, I was always angry – I hate people messing with my brother.’
The family will travel from Alabama to New York where Gabriel will have surgery performed by The Baby Face Foundation to dramatically alter his appearance.
‘I don’t know how my brother will look after the surgery, but I know he will be cool with whatever happens,’ says Haidin.
Ramona says, ‘I don’t want Gabriel to feel like this surgery is to make him look like Haidin – as if the way he looks now is wrong and Haidin is right.
‘Yes, they’re identical, physically that’s true, chromosomally that’s true, but I somehow feel like I would have lost my son if they looked the same. Gabriel has always been the same person, he just looked different.
‘I don’t know how to explain it but I just know there is a part of me that feels that they don’t need to look alike.’