'Tree Man’ undergoes first surgery to remove warts from hands and feet
Abul Bajandar says surgery has given him hope that he can return to old life as a village rickshaw driver
The Bangladeshi man nicknamed “Tree Man” because of the massive bark-like growth on his hands and feet has undergone the first of many operations to remove the warts.
Doctors in the capital Dhaka conducted surgery to remove some of the smaller growths from the palm of his right hand of Abul Bajandar, 25.
Samanta Lal Sen, the plastic surgeon leading the team, said that Mr Bajandar will need up to 15 operations to remove the growths that have developed over 10 years and now weigh 11 pounds (five kilograms).
"The first operation has given me hope," the father-of-one told AFP from Dhaka Medical College Hospital,
"I don't want to return to my village without clearing my hands and feet. I want to get back to my old life.”
Mr Bajandar is one of only three known diagnosed cases in the world of epidermodysplasia verruciformis, an extremely rare genetic skin condition dubbed "tree-man disease".
He was admitted to hospital in January, but doctors first had to conduct tests to check the warts could be removed surgically without damaging major nerves or causing any other health problems.
Dr Sen and his team are removing the warts using a laser burn off the dead tissue, layer by layer. Their main challenge is not to destroy any major nerves.
An Indonesian villager with massive warts all over his body underwent a string of operations in 2008 to remove them.
Mr Bajandar became a reluctant celebrity in Bangladesh, with people travelling to his village in the southern province of Khulna to see him and hundreds more visiting him in hospital.
He is undergoing surgery now after his condition made headlines and the Bangladesh government decided to pay the bill.
When the warts started to develop a decade ago, he initially thought they were harmless. But as they spread from his hands and feet, he was forced to quit working as a bicycle rickshaw puller.
As he cannot eat, drink, brush his teeth or take a shower by himself, he is forced to rely on his 21-year-old wife, Halima, and their three-year-old daughter to help him perform even the simplest functions.
He said he tried cutting the warts when they first appeared in his teens, but it was extremely painful.
"After that I went to a village homoeopath and herbal specialist,” he said. “But those medicines only worsened my condition."
The warts began spreading rapidly four years ago. And even after they are removed, Dr Sen cannot guarantee they will grow back as there is no known cure for the disease.
But for now, Mr Bajandar can dream of a normal life again, riding his bicycle rickshaw and raising his daughter.