Tree Man who grew 'roots' offered hope of new life by doctor
Above: Dr Anthony Gaspari believes that he has diagnosed Dede's rare condition. Below: Dede with his teenage daughter. He fears that his children may also become infected
An Indonesian fisherman who is "half man half tree" has been offered new hope of recovery by an American doctor - and Vitamin A.
32-year-old Dede, who lives in a remote village in Indonesia with his two children, feared that he would be killed by the tree-like growths that cover his body.
Known locally as 'Tree Man' his condition has baffled local doctors for 20 years.
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.
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.
The former fisherman was the subject of a documentary "Half Man Half Tree", part of the "My Shocking Story" series on Discovery Channel TV.
Dede's story began when wart-like "roots" started growing out of his arms and feet after he cut his knee in a teenage accident. The medical world was completely baffled.
The welts spread rapidly across his body and soon he was not able to carry out ordinary household tasks.
Dede was sacked from his job and deserted by his wife. He has been raising two children, now in their late teens, in poverty. He is resigned to the fact that local doctors have no cure for his condition.
To try to support his family he even joined a local "freak show", parading in front of a paying audience along with victims of other peculiar diseases.
While he has the support of his extended family, he has frequently been a target of ridicule and abuse in rural fishing village where he lives.
But now new hope has emerged for Dede after an American dermatology expert flew out to his home village south of the capital Jakarta.
Dr. Anthony Gaspari of the University of Maryland claims to have identified Dede's condition, and has proposed a treatment that could completely change his life.
Following the testing of samples of the lesions and Dede's blood, Dr. Gaspari says his condition is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This is 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. This means his body is unable to contain the warts.
According to Dr. Gaspari, the virus was able to "hijack the cellular machinery of his skin cells", instructing them to produce huge amounts of the substance that caused the tree-like growths known as "cutaneous horns" on both his hands and feet.
The doctor became involved in the case through the Discovery Channel documentary, and he is convinced that Dede's condition can be largely cleared up by a daily doses of a synthetic form of Vitamin A, which has been demonstrated to stop the growth of warts in severe cases of HPV.
Dr. Gaspari said that Dede's warts should reduce in size to the point where he can use his hands. He said he had never seen anything like this in his entire career.
- December 24, 2007.