Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Chinese Elephant Man

You’ve all heard of the Elephant Man and have perhaps seen the famous movie of the same name. His real name was Joseph Merrick and he lived in the 1800s. His body was grossly deformed due to the presence of disfiguring tumors.


He was mentally and physically tortured by his disease and was keenly aware of how his appearance affected others. He ultimately died when trying to sleep like a normal person but the weight of the tumors in his head, crushed his trachea and caused him to suffocate. An autopsy revealed a broken neck. Here is a picture of Mr. Merrick when he was alive.

I remember watching The Elephant Man movie as a teenager in my basement one evening and being profoundly affected by sadness that someone would ever have to go through such a terrible experience. It has always made me reflect on my life and deal with life stressors much easier by putting things in perspective. There is not much in life we can go through that would be worse than such an experience.

In doing some reading on the Elephant Man, I came across the name Huang Chuncai, also known as the Chinese Elephant Man. The picture at the top of this blog entry was taken after he had 33 pounds of a tumor removed from his face in 2007. He had another 4.5 pounds removed in January 2008 and another 10 pounds removed in late 2008. Despite this, the rare genetic condition known as neurofibromatosis, which causes nerve tissue growth, was expressed in such an extreme from in Mr. Chuncai that he can never look normal and the goals of the surgeries are to make him recognizably human.

Below is a video of how he appeared before and after surgery, but it is obviously disturbing so be warned before viewing. The case is remarkable, sad, and inspiring all at the same time. If Mr. Chuncai can get through his days and find some positives (see the video) there is no reason that any of us cannot either, even when we hit rock bottom.

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