WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
In folk literature, the ideas of trees that can talk and walk, or men who turn into trees, has always been present. But in reality, the extremely rare disease known as “tree-man syndrome” is nothing magical; it’s more like a nightmare.
For one man from Gaza, Palestine, named Muhummad Taluli, the condition took more than 10 years of his life away. But after pioneering surgeries at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Taluli has cause for optimism for the first time in a long time.
"The experts here were the only ones who gave me hope for recovery."Check out this amazing story of how Dr. Michael…
The condition is officially known as epidermodysplasia verruciformis but is commonly called tree-man syndrome as it manifests with bizarre-looking growths on the hands that resemble gnarled bark. Not much is known about the disease, but it is believed to be the result of a weakened immune system that is susceptible to HPV (human papillomavirus).
What is clear is how debilitating it can be. Symptoms include terrible pain in the nerve endings to lesions all over the body, and perhaps worst of all the patient’s inability to use their hands. “Aside from the pain, the disease is very dangerous and could easily develop into cancer,” as Michael Chernofsky, the lead surgeon treating Taluli, explained to Jewish Press.
On top of all of these physical symptoms, there is the shame that comes with the condition. For Taluli, he simply avoided contact with the outside world, embarrassed about the state of his hands. As his surgeon Chernofsky told the Jewish Press, “he had become withdrawn and fearful of any possible situation that could cause him to show the hand to other people. He kept the hand covered all the time and life was very hard for him.”
Lesions from a rare, incurable skin condition prevented Mahmoud Taluli from using his hands for a decade. But an Israeli…
Taluli has now had four surgeries and is scheduled to have another, during which Chernofsky hopes to completely cure him. The surgeon’s major discovery was that if any part of the skin lesions were left behind, the patient could reinfect himself simply by touching other areas of his body with his hands.
Chernofsky had nothing to go off, as the disease is so rare that it isn’t even mentioned in medical textbooks. As he told NPR: “You can’t just shave these [lesions] off at the surface. You have to remove every last shred.” Thankfully, the surgeries have already diminished the pain that Taluli experiences on a daily basis.
As Taluli told NPR via email, the surgery has given him his life back. “I can play with my children. I can go to family events. I no longer need to cover my hands when I go out in public.” While Taluli is hoping for a happy ending, another patient with tree-man syndrome is still suffering.
“I asked the doctors to cut off my hands"
Abul Bajandar, from Dhaka, Bangladesh, is only 28 years old but has already undergone 25 surgeries in just three years in an attempt to treat his tree-man syndrome, which has affected both his hands and feet.
Bajandar has become so frustrated and hopeless about his situation that he requested that doctors cut off his hands or else send him abroad for more advanced treatment than he can receive in the country, as he told AFP. “I cannot bear the pain anymore, I can’t sleep at night.”
Unfortunately, Dr. Michael Chernofsky told NPR he doesn’t believe amputation would solve any problems, since the pain from lost nerve endings would be terrible and the disease would continue to exist under the skin on other parts of the body.
Perhaps by curing Taluli and identifying the genetic problem that causes the extreme vulnerability to HPV, the Israeli team will be able to give some relief to people suffering from this baffling disease.