BYU student at 3-foot-9 lives a large life

Published: Friday, May 11 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

BYU student Kelsey Morasco and other students practice their BYU Luau 2012 dance routine in Provo Feb. 25, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PROVO — A huge voice booms from the front row during the men's volleyball tournament at BYU.

The same huge voice rallies friends at dance competitions and, at one time, in the residence halls as she gathered new students from their rooms for announcements and weekly prayer.

It is hard to believe that the thunderous sound bellies from a 3-foot, 9-inch university senior.

"I forget sometimes that I am small," Kelsey Morasco said.

And in all respects, the 21-year-old California native isn't small.

Morasco has a very rare genetic condition, one that afflicts less than 1 in a million individuals around the world. It is called spondylometaphyseal dysplasia Kozlowski syndrome, a form of short-trunk dwarfism. Despite the obvious complications, she has never let it get her down.

"I was made this way and this is who I am," she said, adding that her older sister, Carli, is also a dwarf. "I wouldn't be the person I am if I was tall."

She's developed a keen sense of ingenuity, often having to find clever ways of doing things in an average-size world.

"She doesn't let anything stop her. She used to climb counters faster than I could see her," said her mother, Pam Morasco. "I'd turn around and she would already be up on the counter."

Morasco hauls her seemingly extra-large textbooks across campus sometimes using a wheeled backpack. She has retrofitted her vehicle to include a thick foam booster seat, a wooden box to set her feet on and extended pedals that she can reach. She also has several stools throughout her apartment to help her reach things, but she's been known to be creative, using whatever she can get her hands on to get the job done.

When her friends gather in the kitchen, tiny Morasco takes a seat on the counter. In the classroom, she sits on books or uses an adjustable-height chair to take notes or run the sewing machine in home economics classes.

She laughed when the swag bag she obtained at last year's Little People of America conference contained a reacher tool to help her grab items at higher levels.

"Why would I need a reacher, I just climb on the counter anyways," she said. "I have a shorter torso and longer limbs, but other than that, I'm basically normal."

Walking across campus, Morasco said she occasionally attracts stares. But among those looks are always a few friendly faces.

"I got teased a lot as a kid, but I always had really good friends who stood up for me," she added.

The youngest of four kids, Morasco was excused from gym class in grade school because of her size, but fulfilled the credit with dance classes, something she still enjoys.

"I trip over her when I don't see her there and she'd get injured by other people," her mother said. "It wouldn't be their fault, but that's just what would happen and we wanted to keep her safe. She is just so small."

As a child, Morasco had multiple surgeries, which is common for people with dwarfism. She has had ribs removed, her spine fused, both legs surgically straightened and a titanium rod — custom-made for her size — placed in her back. Her father, a physical therapist, designed a removable brace for her to use at school.

"I knew I was different from a long time ago," she said. "I was smaller and I had all these surgeries that other kids weren't having."

But like any excited freshman, Morasco jumped into college and relished being on her own. She missed her family and home and for the first time, "realized how different I was. Here I was in this much bigger world," she said.

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