Born weighing barely 3 pounds, Jyoti Amge was not supposed to survive for more than 10 minutes.
"Even up to a full nine months, the child could not be seen on the scan. They said the child was not formed. It is like water and that it was not alive," says Kishanji Amge, Jyoti's father, in a National Geographic program about Jyoti that will air tonight. He and his family speak Hindi but communicated through translators.
"When they found that the baby was alive, it was a miracle," Amge said. "The doctors were in shock. It was beyond their understanding."
But Jyoti, who lives in Nagpor, India, with her parents and four siblings, recently celebrated her 15th birthday.
She attends school with students her age, enjoys fashionable clothes and jewelry, and dreams of becoming a film star. But though she is a typical teenager in many ways, she is not even 2-feet-tall.
Although it has not been medically confirmed, doctors who have treated her think she has pituitary dwarfism, or a condition caused by a malfunction of the hormone-secreting pituitary gland responsible for physical growth and development.
"When I was 3, I realized I was different to the rest of the kids," Jyoti says in the National Geographic program, "The World's Smallest Girl." "I thought that everyone was bigger and I should get bigger too."
But though her mental development matches that of her peers, Jyoti's body refuses to grow.
Devout Hindus, Jyoti's parents believe their small-statured daughter to be an incarnation of a goddess and built a temple at their home with a flame that burns day and night. Jyoti's name means "light" and "life" in Hindu.
Others in the area, including the family's guru, or spiritual teacher, also believe Jyoti to be divine.
"People think that I'm the form of a goddess. That's why they show me so much respect," she says. "That's why they touch my feet. I don't mind that they think like that."
With her family's constant support, Jyoti has adapted to the very big challenges that come with being a very small girl. They carry her in their arms, help her with daily routines, and make sure she gets to and from school.
Her physical handicap also seems to have not restricted her ambitions.
"I would like to be an actress when I grow up," she says. "My dream is to do films."
But fragile since birth, Jyoti has sustained several debilitating injuries over the years. And though modern medicine could help her, her family's traditional beliefs have kept mainstream doctors at bay.
Doctors believe Jyoti has a calcium deficiency that makes her bones extra weak, and x-rays show that Jyoti has fractures in both legs -- her right thigh and left shin. Although she used to be able to walk to school independently, a recent accident has limited her mobility.
"I find it strange that my legs just don't heal," she says. "They should heal quickly. I don't like it. It causes me pain."
Concerned about the long-term consequences of her injuries, last fall Jyoti's parents took her to a local hospital to meet with an orthopedist visiting from London, Dr. Ram Soni.