- Rich Rotella, 38, is an actor who underwent limb-lengthening surgery to advance his career.
- He says it added 3 inches to his height and boosted his confidence, but it was painful.
- Rotella has no regrets and is working on a documentary about her experience.
This narrated essay is based on a conversation with Rich Rotella, a 38-year-old actor from Los Angeles, about his experience with leg-lengthening surgery to advance in his career. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I always felt the need to be taller, even as a teenager. I was 5-foot-5 and felt like I paled in comparison to my peers, so my mom and I sought medical advice from a doctor in Frederick County, Maryland, where I lived in New York. ‘era. The doctor recommended a variety of options to increase my height, one of which included growth hormone which I ended up not taking.
I decided to wait and see if I would have a growth spurt at the end of puberty, but when I was 17 I broke my arm playing basketball with my brothers and an x-ray showed that my growth plates were sealed. My doctor told me I wasn’t going to grow taller than 5-foot-5. It was quite frustrating, but I tried to move on.
I Considered Getting My Legs Extended in 2013, But It Seemed Too Expensive
I first thought about having surgery in 2013, but I was married and according to my research, the surgery cost over $100,000. It didn’t seem plausible to spend so much money at the time.
I’ve been an actor in Hollywood since 2009 and have worked with a handful of celebrities, from Betty White to Mindy Sterling, and talented filmmakers. Over time, it seemed like I was stuck in the sidekick role. So in 2019, on the eve of my 10th birthday in Hollywood, I asked some directors and filmmakers to share their honest opinions on my career. They told me that I couldn’t get leading roles because of my size.
The lead actors are usually 5ft 8in and above, they told me. It was a shock and I felt like I had been knocked down a few ankles. I took some time to think about it – then the pandemic happened. My feelings were insignificant compared to what was happening in the world.
The next step was to choose my surgeon
In October 2020, I came across the “Cyborg 4 Life” YouTube channel, which is entirely dedicated to information about cosmetic limb lengthening and limb abnormalities. After going through all the videos, I was impressed and decided to message the creator, Victor Egonu, in hopes of collaborating on a documentary about my post-surgery journey.
We hit it off and pitched our idea to NuVasive, the hardware company responsible for manufacturing the equipment used in surgery. After a series of discussions, the company joined us and played an important role in providing the necessary material for the procedure, which allowed the documentary to move forward.
I chose Dr. Dror Paley from the Paley Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida as my surgeon. He had already done more than 20,000 operations, and I knew that I could count on him to work wonders.
Throughout the process, I kept my intentions secret. Months before the operation, which took place in April 2022, I shared my plans with my girlfriend. I started dating her after I got divorced. She’s the only one I spoke to before entering.
You have surgery in perfect health and you wake up with broken legs
After the surgery, the institute required a three-month rest period at their facility, where you work with a physical therapist five times a week to regrow your bones from scratch. The surgery itself took four hours, but the recovery is the longest part – it’s a slow and painful process. My mobility was severely limited and I was taking strong medication.
The price of the procedure depends on the method you choose and whether physical therapy is included. I chose to do femoral surgery, or above the knees, and ended up spending over $100,000. My insurance didn’t cover surgery, but I would recommend people include physiotherapy sessions in their cost analysis. I increased my height by 3 inches, from 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 8 inches.
Immediately after the operation, I sent a mass email to my family and friends informing them of my decision. I received mixed reactions, but many people questioned my judgement.
It’s an incredibly painful experience
It was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. Your bone grows back slowly: A device lengthens the shafts of your legs by about 1 millimeter per day.
You must commit to the process: do intensive research on the type of procedure you want and the recovery process, meet with the medical professionals who will work with you, and follow each step of the process.
For professionals looking to do this, having a backup plan in place is essential. This is something that can really affect your career as you will be unable to work for months. And you can’t do it alone. Fortunately, I had the help of my girlfriend to smooth out the trip.
This surgery boosted my confidence for auditions
I’m currently working on the documentary, which is in post-production with an expected release in 2024. I’m also starting to look for opportunities to connect with executives at major studios in hopes of selling the rights to my story. In the meantime, I have several other films I’m looking to work on.
I don’t mind the negative reactions I got from people around me who still think I was wrong to do this, because limb lengthening surgery is like any other cosmetic surgery. It’s something I’ve wanted for myself all my life, and even if my career in Hollywood hadn’t existed, I believe I still would have.
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