Can Growth Hormone Heighten Kids' Confidence?

Are you too short? Missing out on opportunities because tall people have an advantage? What if, when you were young, you could have done something about it? Today many kids try to.

Fourteen-year-old Kaitlyn Christopherson of Lake Jackson, Texas, is short. She's an eighth-grader but only as tall as most fourth-graders.

She said the hardest part of being short is just feeling odd. "Feeling like you're different, like you're weird. You know, I want to be normal. I want what everybody else wants."

Her unhappiness was hard on her mom, Amy. "It was very hard to see her crying."

Ryan Hersch of Long Island, N.Y., is short too. Ryan's dad, Danny, says he fears Ryan might never grow past 5 feet. "Certain opportunities won't come his way. Out in the business world, dating girls."

At age 13, Ryan had worn the same size sneaker for four years, so his parents took him to endocrinologists, doctors who specialize in hormone production. Kaitlyn's mom did the same. The doctors' tests showed that Kaitlyn's and Ryan's bodies were not making enough growth hormone.

The proposed solution? Injections of HGH, human growth hormone. HGH is talked about everywhere these days. You probably get e-mail pitches from scammers trying to convince you that HGH is a miracle cure to reverse aging or reduce fat.

In adults, it builds muscle. In kids, growth hormone is what makes them grow. So, for Ryan, whose body isn't producing enough of it, giving him daily injections of growth hormone may help him grow.

Dr. Graeme Frank of Schneider's Children's Hospital in New Hyde Park, N.Y., said he thought Ryan would do very well on growth hormone, but Ryan's parents are worried. HGH can have side effects, and since the treatment is relatively new, the long-term risk is unknown.

Ryan's mom, Jodi Hersch, said, "I'm putting a drug into my child. Not knowing, is he going to be able to have children? Is this going to cause, God forbid, cancer?"

Ryan said, "I'm kind of scared because I don't like getting shots at all."

But Ryan and his parents finally put their fears aside and decided to go ahead. The drug company sent a nurse to teach Ryan's parents how to give him his medicine, and gave Ryan the first of what will be about 1,800 shots over five years.

Kaitlyn gave herself the shots. To avoid bruising she was told to spread them around -- on her arms, legs and stomach. She said it doesn't hurt much, but it's annoying to have to do it every day for years.

"I really want to grow," she said. "So if that's what I have to do to do it, then I will."

After two years, "2020" has checked back in with Ryan and Kaitlyn. Did the hormones work? Were there side effects? And most of all, was it worth it?

Find out on "2020" Friday, July 27, at 10 pm EDT.

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