A student who was born with a port wine stain across her face was often confused for an acid-attack or burns victim before undergoing 'life-changing' surgery.
Ellahe Haghani suffers from Sturge-Weber syndrome, which causes abnormal blood vessels to develop in the skin and has left her blind in her right eye.
Doctors in Iran refused to operate on Miss Haghani's blemish over fears a single 'scratch' to the lesion could cause her to 'bleed to death'.
With the port wine stain swelling to cover her eyes, mouth and cheeks, the now 37-year-old endured years of people cruelly asking if her condition is contagious and even saying she should not be allowed to leave the house.
But things started to look up when Miss Haghani, who is studying to be a nurse, was introduced to a surgeon who believed he could lessen her blemish in 2009.
Miss Haghani flew to New York, where she now lives, for the first of 20 'debulking' surgeries, as well as laser treatments and skin grafts.
Although the blemish is still visible on her nose and forehead, the operations have given Miss Haghani a newfound confidence, with her hoping to settle down and start a family.
Speaking of her condition, Miss Haghani said: 'When I was outside the house people were frightened, they didn't know what it was and were scared.
'Some thought I had a contagious disease, others thought I suffered from an acid attack or was burned.
'Horrible people told me I shouldn't come out in public and stay inside, but I didn't listen to them because it's my life.'
Miss Haghani was repeatedly refused surgery in Iran, which caused her blemish to become more prominent.
'My family searched everywhere for a way to cure me, but nothing was available, all doctors said was that the lesions could not be treated surgically or medically,' she said.
'They feared that as soon as they touched my birthmark, that they wouldn't be able to stop the bleeding.
'Even from a scratch I risked bleeding a lot, doctors were scared to operate in case I died.'
Desperate, Miss Haghani flew to Edinburgh at just 14 years old to undergo two years of laser treatment, which had little effect.
And as she grew older, Miss Haghani's blemish continued to become larger and darker.
'[At] the age of 26 it was so big and disfigured I became scared myself,' she said.
Unable to tolerate her appearance much longer, Miss Haghani came across Dr Milton Waner, who specialises in facial surgery.
'Miraculously I found a surgeon in New York, willing to operate on my face, so I came here alone and had up to 20 surgeries,' she said.
'Dr Waner debulked all the extra tissue on my face and at the same time used the laser treatment to lighten the colour.
'Then I had skin-grafts on my check, my nose and then more on my eyelids to make my face look more natural.'
Miss Haghani is thrilled with the results of her treatment, with her most recently undergoing laser therapy nine months ago.
'Now I realise how horribly disfigured I was, when it's your own face you get used to it and don't see yourself the way other people do,' she said.
'I'm so grateful to Dr Waner and everyone who helped me, it was a life-changing experience and I owe my new life to the people who helped me.
Miss Haghani still suffers headaches and glaucoma as a result of Sturge-Weber syndrome but is determined to remain positive and give back.
'I believe in myself, my face doesn't define me, what defines me is my abilities, what I do with my life and how I help other people,' she said.
'I went to nursing school, because I wanted to help others who are suffering; helping people makes me happy.'
Miss Haghani even keeps a photograph of herself before her surgeries next to her bed.
'Every day I wake up and look at the picture to remember who I was and am now, so I have the courage to do anything I want now,' she said.
With her newfound confidence, Miss Haghani hopes to get married and have children.
'I was a shy person before, but I still feel like I want to date someone, it has got to be someone who knows you very well and not just for your face,' she said.
'But I'm not giving up, I have lots of good friends and I'm sure there is someone for me.
'The people who know me, see me for more than my face and as someone who is determined to get whatever she wants.
'I have to prove everybody wrong who says I cannot do things, but as everyone who knows me believes - I am stubborn and never give-up.'
Source: The Daily Mail
Photos: Caters News Agency