COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- A mid-Missouri man has faced ridicule and many health issues due to his small frame.
Now, the Columbia Daily Tribune reports Mark McGimsey is among those trying to spread awareness about dwarfism.
Little People of America has declared this month the first Dwarfism Awareness Month. Officials for the group said they are one of the last social groups it seems acceptable to mock.
At 4 foot 8 1/2 inches tall, McGimsey is considered large for someone with dwarfism. But his condition has still generates stares and a host of health problems.
The 47-year-old husband and father of two has struggled with scoliosis, pinched nerves, metal rods in his spine and multiple knee surgeries. He also expects to undergo operations in the future because of his stature.
An estimated 30,000 Americans live with some form of dwarfism, and about 80 percent of those, including McGimsey, were born to parents of normal stature.
With a small population, negative media portrayals and activities such as "midget wrestling" and "midget bowling" have a more significant impact on little people than other groups, said Gary Arnold, vice president of public relations for Little People of America.
"Even in a big urban area, you're not going to have exposure" to dwarfism "in your day-to-day routine life," he said. "So opinion and experience is definitely shaped by what you see in pop culture."
As a kid, McGimsey wore a clumsy and painful back brace at night and faced constant taunting from peers. In college, he was known as the "hunchback" of the dorm. McGimsey had worked as a bat specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation before going on full disability. Now he stays at home to help raise his children.
"The disability has allowed me to be a stay-at-home dad," he said, holding his 3-month-old daughter, Maeghan. "I had a great job, but it pales in comparison to being able to stay home with my children. ... There's nothing better than a sleeping baby on your chest."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)