The Discovery Channel calls him “Half Man Half Tree”, and the UK Telegraph refers to him as the “Tree Man who grew roots.”
I am sure I am going to see many bizarre and heartbreaking stories in my career in healthcare, but this case is one of the strangest medical things I have ever seen or heard of.
From the Discovery Channel website:
“32 year old Dede lives in a remote village in Indonesia with his two children, trying to care for them. Dede, a former fisherman, has an extraordinary skin condition: he has root like structures growing out of his body – branches that can grow up to 5cm a year and which protrude from his hands and feet, and welts covering his whole body.
He is known locally as ‘Tree Man’ and his condition has baffled local doctors for 20 years. In an attempt to earn a living to support his family, he is part of a circus troupe, displaying his Tree Man limbs along with others afflicted with skin deformities in ‘freak’ shows.”
From the UK Telegraph:
After testing samples of the lesions and Dede’s blood, Dr Anthony Gaspari of the University of Maryland concluded that his affliction is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a fairly common infection that usually causes small warts to develop on sufferers. Dede’s problem is that he has a rare genetic fault that impedes his immune system, meaning his body is unable to contain the warts. The virus was therefore able to “hijack the cellular machinery of his skin cells”, ordering them to produce massive amounts of the substance that caused the tree-like growths known as “cutaneous horns” on his hands and feet.
One of the things I have learned and tried to practice throughout nursing school is the medical poker face, where you try never to show your inner feelings when you see something on a patient that absolutely throws, scares, or disgusts you (such as crazy smelling wounds and secretions). But this… I would have a hard time maintaining that poker face with this. It gives the concept of warts and HPV a whole new meaning.
I will definitely be following this story. If you subscribe to the Discovery Channel, see if you can catch the show.
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