Who's Behind Listverse?
Jamie founded Listverse due to an insatiable desire to share fascinating, obscure, and bizarre facts. He has been a guest speaker on numerous national radio and television stations and is a five time published author.More About Us
10 People With Shocking and Extreme Deformities
This list will detail ten unfortunate individuals who have suffered from severe disfigurements. A few of these people, with the help of modern medicine, have been able to live a more normal life. Some of the following tales are tragic, and others inspire hope. Here are ten shocking stories:
Rudy Santos, a 69 year old from the Philippines, suffers from the ultra rare condition known as Craniopagus parasiticus or parasitic twin. He is the oldest person with this condition. Attached to Rudy’s pelvis and abdomen are an extra pair of arms and a leg, which developed when his twin was absorbed into his body during pregnancy. Also connected to his body are an extra pair of nipples and an undeveloped head with an ear and hair.
Rudy became a national celebrity whilst traveling with a freak show during the 1970s and ’80s. He would earn up to 20,000 pesos per night as the main attraction. It was at this show where he gained his stage name—the ‘Octoman’. Rudy was likened to a god, and women would line up to be with him.
Strangely, Rudy vanished in the late ’80s and ended up living in extreme poverty for over ten years. In 2008, two doctors examined him to see whether surgery would be viable or not. They concluded that they would be able to remove the parasitic twin, but Rudy decided not to have the operation. He said that he had become fond the extra growth.
Hungry for more bizarre medical anomalies? You won’t be able to put down the Mutter Museum Book of Historic Medical Photographs at Amazon.com!
Manar Maged—born in Cairo in 2004—also suffered from parasitic twin. Manar and her twin sister were fused together at the head. Her twin had no limbs and could only smile, blink and cry.
At ten months of age, Manar was taken to a hospital in Cairo after she became very ill. It was decided that without the removal of the parasitic twin, they would both die. Unfortunately, after they were separated, the twin died as it used the blood supply of Manar and could not survive without her. Less than a year later, Manar also died due to a brain infection which was caused by complications from the surgery.
Minh Anh is a Vietnamese orphan who was born with a mystery skin disorder which causes his skin to flake and form scales. His condition is thought to have been caused by Agent Orange—the defoliate chemical used by the USA during the Vietnam War. This condition causes him to overheat and his skin can become very uncomfortable without regular baths. Fellow orphans have nicknamed him ‘Fish’. Minh used to be violent to staff members and other children at the orphanage, so they had to restrain him by tying him to his bed.
When Minh was young, he met Brenda, aged 79 from the UK and she travels to Vietnam annually to see him. They have formed a close bond over the years and have become good friends. Brenda has helped Minh in many ways at the orphanage—she persuaded the staff not to tie him up when he is violent and she has found him a friend to take him swimming every week, which is now Minh’s favourite hobby.
Probably the most well-known person on this list is Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man. Born in 1836, the Englishman became a celebrity in London and also gained fame around the world. He was born with proteus syndrome—a condition which causes huge lumps to develop on the skin and the bones to deform and thicken.
Joseph’s mother died when he was eleven and he was rejected by his father. He left home at a young age and worked in Leicester before contacting a showman. He was the main act and gained his stage name—the ‘Elephant Man’.
Due to the size of his head, Joseph had to sleep sitting up. His head was so heavy that it was impossible for him to sleep lying down. One night in 1890, he attempted to sleep ‘like normal people’ and dislocated his neck in the process. He was found dead the next morning.
Didier Montalvo, from rural Colombia developed congenital melanocytic nevus, which causes moles to grow all over the body at an incredibly fast rate. As a result of this disease, a mole grew so large that it covered Didier’s entire back. He was dubbed ‘turtle boy’ by his peers as the huge mole looked like a shell.
Apparently, Didier was conceived on an eclipse and the locals believed his mole was the work of the devil. For this reason, he was shunned by other children and banned from the local school. When British surgeon Neil Bulstrode heard about Didier’s condition, he travelled to Bogota so he could operate and remove the mole. Didier was six years old when the surgery was performed. It was a success and the whole mole was excised. After the operation, Didier now goes to school and lives a normal, happy life.
Mandy Sellars, from Lancashire, UK, was diagnosed with proteus syndrome—the same medical condition as Joseph Merrick. Proteus syndrome is extremely rare and it’s thought to affect only 120 people worldwide. It has caused Mandy’s legs to become extremely enlarged, weighing a total of 95 kilograms and measuring one meter in circumference. As her feet are so large, she has to buy specially fitted shoes which cost around $4000 dollars. She also has a personalized car, allowing her to drive without using her feet.
Doctors decided to amputate one of Mandy’s legs after she contracted deep vein thrombosis and MRSA. After the operation, the remaining section of leg kept growing and became too heavy for her prosthetic. She has now received a new prosthetic leg which should last the rest of her life.
Petero Byakatonda is a boy from a small, rural town in Uganda who suffers from crouzon syndrome. This affects about one in every 25,000 births, but Petero’s case is an extreme one. Crouzon syndrome causes malformation of the skull, which in turn pushes the eyeballs out of their sockets and the ears down, leading to problems with sight and hearing. In developed countries, the deformities caused by crouzon syndrome are usually treated very soon after birth but Petero did not receive this treatment as he lives hundreds of miles away from a hospital.
Petero’s neighbors tormented and shunned him for his appearance and he locked himself away in his room, hardly ever leaving the house. A doctor noticed his condition when driving through Petero’s village. The doctor raised enough money for Petero to travel to Austin, Texas, for life-changing surgery. He spent six months there while doctors re-shaped his skull. This put a lot pressure off his optic nerve and brain. A second operation was needed to reconstruct the bone around Petero’s eyes. Complications occurred during the second surgery—he lost 80% of his total blood volume and his condition turned critical. Luckily, he survived and he now lives a happy life in his village.
José Mestre from Lisbon, Portugal, developed a huge facial deformity which started growing on his lips when he was fourteen. Over the years, this tumor grew to be over five kilograms in weight. It caused him to become blind in one eye and made it very hard for him to breathe, eat and sleep. He spent forty years of his life without treatment because of “years of medical misinformation, some misdiagnosis, lack of finances, and reluctance to undergo treatment due to religious beliefs.”
In 2010, José travelled to Chicago to undergo four operations to remove his tumor and restore his facial features. The tumor mass was removed completely in the first operation and the next three aimed to reconstruct the face. The operations were successful and José travelled back to Lisbon a few weeks after treatment.
Dede Koswara is an Indonesian man who, for most of his life, has endured the extremely rare fungal infection, Epidermodysplasia verruciformis. This causes large, hard fungal growths to protrude from the skin which looks remarkably like tree bark. This had become extremely uncomfortable for Dede, preventing him from performing basic functions with his hands, as they were so large and heavy. The fungus grows all over the body but it’s mainly found on the hands and feet.
In 2008, Dede received treatment in the USA to remove six kilograms of warts from his body. After this was done, skin grafts were applied to the hands and face. Unfortunately, this surgery did not stop the fungus from growing and he had further operations in 2011. There is no cure for Dede’s condition.
Fetus in fetu is an extremely rare developmental abnormality that occurs in one out of every 500,000 births. The reason for this condition is unclear, but many scientists believe that it occurs in the early stages of pregnancy, when one fetus is enveloped by the other. Many parasitic twins are small and undeveloped, but others can grow to a large size. Alamjan Nematilaev, from Khazakstan, had a parasitic twin that developed hair, limbs, teeth, nails, genitals, a head and a basic face. Alamjan’s twin had been living inside him for over seven years before it was discovered…
In 2003, Alamjan’s school doctor noticed the swollen abdomen and sent him to the hospital. Doctors examined him and believed that the lump was a cyst. The following week, Alamjan was operated on and to the doctor’s surprise, they found a baby measuring two kilograms in weight and twenty centimeters in length. The doctor who carried out the surgery said that Alamjan looked like he was in the sixth month of pregnancy. The boy’s parents believed that his condition was caused by radiation from the Chernobyl disaster, but experts have dismissed this idea. Alamjan fully recovered from the operation, but to this day, he still does not know that his twin grew inside him.
Caleb is a Listverse author and moderator from Cornwall, UK. You can follow him on twitter.