Friday, August 27, 2010

MANDY SELLARS, A British Woman with Gigantic Legs | September 20, 2008 | Russian woman Svetlana Pankrtova stunned the world for her longest legs of any woman recognized by Guinness World Records. British woman Mandy Sellars now also attracted the similar international attention for her own (gigantic) legs, but apparently the latter is not as lucky as the former.

Mandy Sellars (pictured here), 33, from Lancashire of England, may be suffering from an extremely rare disease called Proteus syndrome [wikipedia] that left two of her legs weighing 92-98kg out of total body weight about 130kg. What’s the worse, the abnormal legs never stops growing, and one day, they may have to be amputated.

Sellars is 33 years old and weighs 285 pounds [129kg]. Her upper torso is a petite size 8 and accounts for only about 70 or 80 pounds [31~36kg] of her weight. The rest is in her legs and feet.

“When I was born, there was a noticeable difference between my upper body and my lower body,” Sellars said. “They didn’t actually expect me to live further than about a few, a few days or so.”

A Tough Job for the Shoemaker

Throughout her childhood, the growth of her legs continued to outpace the rest of her body until she could no longer move on her own. She walks now with the aid of crutches and drives a specially equipped automobile.

Near her home in northwestern England, Sellars goes to a private shoemaker. Her right foot is 16 inches [41 cm] long and 7 inches [18 cm] wide, and her legs are of differing lengths because the left foot — a club foot, 11 inches [28 cm] long — faces backward.

So the fittings are delicate. It takes weeks of trial and error to produce the final molds for a pair of boots, and they will cost around $4,000 — money she has to raise because she is unemployed.

Because her condition remained such a mystery, she often seemed to be on the edge of disaster. In college, she was once suddenly paralyzed because of a blood clot that required 10 weeks of hospitalization. When a plastic surgeon tried liposuction to reduce the bulk in her legs, more tissue grew back than had been removed.

“In my mind, the condition has a mind of its own,” Sellars said, “because whatever you take away grows back bigger and bigger.”

It was through the Internet that she finally began to get a clue about what her condition might be. A friend of hers came across the site of an organization in Great Britain called the Proteus Syndrome Foundation U.K.. That finally led to a diagnosis, one that Sellars had been waiting years to receive. The unusual growth of her legs and knees was common to people with Proteus syndrome

“This is a very rare disorder. Certainly, less than one in a million,” said Dr. John Graham, director of clinical genetics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Proteus syndrome is named for the Greek God who could change his form. And because it was such an apt description of how these individuals rapidly change form from appearing relatively normal as young children to this startling overgrowth, the name has remained with the disorder ever since then.”

The most famous case of Proteus syndrome in history was that of Joseph Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man, who died in 1890 and was the subject of a well-known movie about his life.

Thinking Ahead

Sellars lives independently in a home that has been only slightly modified for her, but even common household tasks — fixing a cup of tea — can be exhausting. She visits a nutritionist, hoping she can lessen the effects of Proteus syndrome through diet, but so far, it hasn’t helped. She has been told that eventually she may need to amputate her legs. She’s already considering how she will live her life then and has even thought about entering the London Marathon as a wheelchair racer.

“I’d love to do that,” Sellars said, “and hopefully then be able to wheel myself and train hard enough to be able to do that, and raise money for charity that’s helped me.” (Nino Guevara Ruwano)


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