Sunday, February 7, 2016

This man had a small scrape on his knee. 27 years later, he looked like a tree.


Dede Koswara is a 37-year-old man from a small village in Indonesia. Let's just say he has a memorable appearance. He is known around his village as "the tree man." His skin looks like it could belong to an alien.
Youtube/Albert Tidbits
It all started when Dede was 15 years old. He scraped his knee while he was playing outside. Small warts started to grow around his wound and then they began to spread, eventually covering his entire body. 
Youtube/Albert Tidbits
It turns out that Dede suffers from a very rare disease called Epidermodysplasia verruciformis (EV). It's not just a complex name, but also a rare and complex genetic defect. There are only two known cases of it worldwide. Dede has a higher risk of developing skin cancer because of the gene and it is responsible for the treelike growth all over his body.
Youtube/Albert Tidbits
The defect makes it hard for his immune system to fight against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of normal-sized warts in healthy people. In Dede's case however, the warts run rampant, growing and growing out of control. Thus, his treelike appearance.
Youtube/Albert Tidbits
Dede used to work in construction, but since his hands were mutated into large, gnarly forms, he had to stop his work. He then joined a circus - and was one of its top attractions. But Dede just wants to be a normal person again. He already lost his wife due to the disease. When he couldn't earn money, she left him and their children all alone.
Youtube/Albert Tidbits
A few doctors stumbled across pictures of him on the internet and decided to help the desperate man. American physician Dr. Anthony Gaspari from the University of Maryland is one of the leading skin specialists in the world. He flew to Indonesia to treat Dede and removed more than 4 pounds of bark-like skin in an operation lasting several hours.
Youtube/Albert Tidbits
Dede was given medicine to stop the wart growth. And it worked! After his hospital stay, a new man returned home. For the first time in a long time, Dede can use his hands again and see his face free of warts.
Youtube/Albert Tidbits
He could barely believe it. "When all the growths are gone," he said, "I'd like to go back to work." He had hopes of accumulating some savings, and opening a small shop in his village. Many people have donated to Dede's cause and helped his family buy a small field near his village.
Youtube/Neramitt

Dede is no longer "the tree man" or a circus act. But he still has to undergo two operations each year to remove any new growth. This is nothing for Dede though, because now he can see his hands and hold his children again - the greatest reward of all. His life has definitely been changed for the better. He hopes to remarry some day and have more children. We'll keep our fingers crossed for him!