By Dan Howlett @DanHowlett85
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Videographer / director: Ruaridh Connellan
Producer: Dan Howlett, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: Joshua Douglas
Gabriel Cooper was born with Pierre Robin Syndrome, meaning his jaw did not fully form in the womb – leading to a facial disfigurement.
After 19 years of looking different from his identical twin brother Hadin, Gabriel has undergone plastic surgery and had his jaw expanded - dramatically altering his face.
Gabriel, who lives in Alabama in the USA said: “I’m not sure how this operation will eventually change my life.
“I’m already a very happy person but I guess it will help to make me more outgoing – I already feel more confident and it’s still eight weeks until I’m fully healed.
“I always thought I was happy as I was but this has already had a huge impact on my life.
“It’s also great being in New York City, the people here are so open minded, nobody stares at me – when I was in Soho one guy thought that I just had some really cool piercings.”
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,” said 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’s life-changing surgery was performed by one of the USA’s leading plastic surgeons, Dr Stephen Warren.
The procedure of inserting the expanders was carried out in May with the final visit and expansion taking place in early June.
“Considering how complex this procedure can be we were done within around three hours,” said Dr Warren.
“We had to make little cuts in his jaw bone and attach a metal device which was closed by 1mm each day for 30 days.
“This opened up and helped to lengthen his lower jaw bringing it in line with his upper jaw.
“But this is more of a treatment period than a simple surgery – Gabriel’s jaw will now have to heal much like any broken bone.
“We probably won’t see the full effects of the procedure for another eight weeks but I am optimistic that we have accomplished the goal to bring the jaw far enough forward.”
But for Gabriel the results are already there to be seen.
He added: “Seeing myself in the mirror feels strange.
“It makes everything real but it’s hard for me to believe that I am now this way.”
And his mother Ramona has already noticed a big difference in his confidence.
She said: “He just seems more outgoing and is having conversations with people where he would normally just say hi and walk away.
“He has also lost a lot of his mannerisms, he doesn’t look uncomfortable when he is in public and is embracing the change really well.
“I didn’t know how this was going to work but I do actually see Hadin and Gabriel looking more alike.”
Gabriel added: “I don’t think I look more like Hadin but I’m pretty sure he looks more like me.”