A thin young man with a dirty piece of pink cloth covering his hands resting on his knees, sat down at the doctor’s office Samanta Lal Sen in the Unit of Plastic Surgery and Burns Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) . He seemed normal until his mother Amena Begum remove the cloth and he brought his feet under the chair.
It seemed as if he had two heavy logs weighing about four kilos hands glued to their roots and branches sprouting in all directions. Similar brown scaly growths covered his feet, especially the toes.
Abul Bajandar, 26, is the fourth man in the world with the tree man’s disease, a disorder of the rare skin disease caused by a virus called human papilloma virus.
According to information found on the Internet, a Romanian man was diagnosed with the disease in March 2007. Another case was reported in Indonesia in November of the same year a fisherman 35 years old. The last case also occurred in the same region of Indonesia in 2009.
“I’ve seen here for the first time in Bangladesh,” said Dr. Sen, noted physician and coordinator of the Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit. “It was referred to us by doctors Gazi Medical College in Khulna.”
“Warts began to appear in the leg when he was 15,” Abul, who came from the bus stop in Payikgachha Saral, Khulna, “At first it was small said, but in the last five or six years began to grow at a rate. “
Abul, who married in 2011 and had a daughter three years old, soon lost all the functions of the hand and had to give up his job as a van driver.
“I need the help of all my daily eating toileting tasks,” he said. His mother and wife now care for him every day. “The almost tears down my arms and the pain increases heavyweight when I move my limbs.”
Initially, Abul went to homeopaths people. But when the treatment was not referred to him Khulna. “Even we took him to Kolkata five times in the last five years,” said his sister Aduri Begum who came with him to Dhaka on Friday night.
“The last time we went to India, doctors said we have to do surgery and refer to Vellore in Madras. But he could not afford the treatment should be taken around Tk 5 lakh,” Abul said.
He and his family have already spent about Tk 2 lakh in search of a cure for this disorder. “People helped us to lend money,” said Amena Begum.
He complained how difficult it was for her husband Manik Bajandar a van driver and a laborer to support the family of six members including Abul’s younger sister, and his wife and daughter.
When all hopes of a possible medical treatment seemed bleak, the wife of Abul Halima found a team of private TV channel during the last municipal elections. “She suggested that we ask people for help channel” Amena said.
Sunil Das, the head office SATV, was in the area to cover the polls when Abul approached him for help. “At first I thought he was asking for money. But when he showed my hands I realized that I had never seen anything like this before,” he said.
Since then Das contacted friends and doctors in the country and abroad, trying to find a cure and finally was referred to the DMCH Burn Unit.
With the proceeds from a couple of journalists, a physician and an expatriate money, Das sent Abul, his mother and sister to Dhaka Medical College on Friday afternoon.
“We may not be able to provide an absolute cure, but maybe we can at least try to make their functional hands,” said Dr. Sen, after he, his team and another plastic surgeon from Chittagong Abul examined the Saturday morning.
He said he would contact other plastic surgeons in the country and establish a five-member medical board on Sunday to decide on research, diagnosis and treatment of medical Abul case, it would be completely free of cost.
“Since I can still move my fingers, we could remove the meat and the extra skin and release the finger and thumb through plastic surgery to return some functionality to your hand,” he noted.
However, the doctors could not tell immediately what had caused this condition.
“The virus could have entered the body from injury,” said Dr. Md Ayub Ali, associate professor, plastic surgery, Chittagong Medical College and Hospital. “This is no longer contagious, but if the condition persists for a long time, say 30 years, then they can become malignant cells that lead to cancer,” he added.
According to the Dermnet, New Zealand, known as epidermodysplasia verruciforme [also called Lewandowsky-Lutz dysplasia] it is an autosomal recessive inherited disorder, which means that two EV abnormal genes, one from each parent, to have the disease are needed.
According to Amena Begum, nobody in the maternal or paternal family of Abul ever had those conditions.
To date, no cure has been found. Indonesian fisherman, whose case received worldwide attention, won some mobility through surgery, but the warts began to reappear later.