TODAY | February 23, 2012
>>> and now the story of an upbeat young girl with one of the rarest of conditions. a syndrome characterized by excess hair on the face and other parts of the body. nbc's ian williams is here with more on the story. good morning to you.
>> good morning, savannah. well, there's only been 50 cases of this since the middle ages . but i met one young girl who has the condition, but also has a remarkable determination to lead a normal life . at first sight, this could be any bangkok neighborhood. but this is where nat lives, a special child, whose spirit and determination has been an inspiration to her community. 11-year-old supatra sasuphan, nicknamed nat, has a syndrome that gives her excess hair covering her face and parts of her body. a genetic condition so rare that only 50 cases have been documented since the middle ages . she was born with the condition and as a baby, needed two operations just to be able to breathe normally. it's the way i am, she told me. i don't even think about it. the guinness book of records recently named her the world's hairiest girl. an award she says she's proud of. she is self-confident, she works and plays hard, her father told me. we want people to understand, she's a normal little girl . young nat seems to be able to cope with all the attention. but it hasn't always been that easy. one of her biggest challenges came when she first attended school. initially, she was teased and bullied. many students were frightened of her appearance. but she gradually won them over. and teachers now describe her as one of the most popular and gifted children at school. in times past she proved that she was just like everybody else says her class teacher. she has a reputation for being first to the library in the morning. and for being one of the best players at the word games before class. she likes to sing, dance and to act. teachers describing her as very lively. during our visit, her class was preparing for exams. nat hoping to do well at math, her favorite subject.
>> she is very, very good. very good student. and happy.
>> you got an a in math, nat? that was borne out later by the exam results. she always gets such good grades, i'm proud of her, said nat's mother. a sharp mind, she puts to good use among her friends. doctors have tried to remove the hair using laser treatments. but it's always grown back. thicker as she gets older. she says she hopes one day she can be cured. but she's not letting her condition prevent her from planning for the future. she wants to be a doctor. so i can help sick and injured people, she told me. and treat my mom and dad and relatives. and she certainly has the heart and the sheer determination to make that happen.
>> what an amazing story, an amazing little girl . they've tried to address it, but laser hair removal hasn't really worked?
>> they've tried a number of things and her and her family are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities, for new possible treatments. but the remarkable thing is, just how spirited and determined she remains, in spite of that condition.
>> yeah, how she's come to accept it and her culture has as well.
>> it is. that has been something which has been important. thai culture is quite tolerant. and the school she's at is known as a special needs school. but the only special need that she had was to be accepted and of course, that not only has she been accepted. but she's excelled as a student.
>> she's an amazing girl and brave as well. ian thanks for bringing us this story.