35-year-old Clint Ramie has lived his entire life with a port-wine stain birthmark on his face, which has caused him breathing and sinus problems as well as a speech impediment. NY1's Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
There are a lot of things 35-year-old Clint Ramie could have done without. That includes the stares he got on the streets of his Brooklyn neighborhood as a mark on his face began to grow out of control in his early teens.
"I refrained from looking into people’s eyes a lot as a younger child," Ramie says. "I used to walk with my head down, never looked up a lot, because I don’t want to see that shock at all like 'Oh My God, what is that?'"
"I recall staying up late at my house crying myself not even to sleep," he added. "It forces you to ask the question 'Why, why, why, why?'"
Ramie was born with a birthmark known as port-wine stain. It gets its name because of how it looks: like a splash of wine on skin. Appearing usually on the face, neck, arms or legs, only about three out of every 1,000 people are born with it.
Ramie’s doctor, Milton Waner, is considered the leading authority on what are also known as vascular malformations or lesions.
"These are vascular lesions that people are born with and as they get older, these things get worse," Waner says. "They can become very disfiguring and in fact, some of them can become life-threatening."
In Clint’s case, he’s experienced trouble breathing, sinus problems and a speech impediment due to overgrowth of his lip.
Part of the problem growing up is that Ramie’s family initially didn’t know what it was, let alone where to turn for help.
"It started looking like a little rash," says Cheryl Ramie, Clint's mother. "And then it started looking like a birthmark. And then it started looking like a bigger birthmark. And then it started to take on, started to progress to where it was so overwhelming."
"There are literally thousands of people out there who can use treatment and would benefit greatly from treatment but don’t know that it is available," Dr. Waner says.
Part 2 of Kafi Drexel's report will show Ramie as he undergoes a surgical treatment that will attempt to un-layer decades of struggle.