Sandy Allen wears a size-22 shoe, in case you are wondering. Sooner or later, everyone she meets wants to know.
On New Year's Eve at a physical rehabilitation center in Indianapolis, Ind., Allen — the world's tallest woman — has three resolutions: "I want to laugh. I want to be around children. And I want to get back on my feet."
The Guinness Book of World Records certifies Allen's height at 7 feet 7-1/4 inches. But it's been more than a year since she's stood up. Suffering from a severe bladder infection, atrophied muscles and a variety of ailments, she vows that she will walk again. "Don't laugh," she says, "But I have high hopes."
'Life's Short, I'm Not'
At 46, Allen has outlived many other giants. Unusual growth can trigger a variety of health issues. The world's tallest man, Robert Wadlow, who was 8 feet 11 inches, died at 22. The tallest woman, the 8-foot, 2-inch Zeng Jinlian of China, was just 17.
"My time could be running out," she says. "But I'll go down fighting." She has a night shirt that says it all: "Life's short, I'm Not."
Allen's whole life has been a fight. From being an outcast in Shelbyville, Ind., to working in what she called a "glorified freak show" in Niagara Falls, it's been a battle for respect. Her favorite memories are doing assembly programs for elementary school children, teaching the simple lesson, "It's OK to be different." "I felt so much like an outcast, a space alien, someone who didn't belong," she says, as she begins to promote her authorized biography, Cast A Giant Shadow (1stBooks Library) by John Kleinman. "I feel I have a duty to help others who stare up to the sky and say, 'Why me, lord?'"
One Size Fits All … But You
Imagine a world several sizes too small. Terror lurks in the bathroom. She once got her 400-pound frame stuck in a tub for several hours. "Showerheads," she says, "hit me in the bellybutton." Try washing dishes when the sink only comes up to your thigh. Try finding a pair of panty hose that fit. If anyone could complain, "I haven't a thing to wear," it was she. Allen suffers from "acromegaly," commonly known as "giant's disease." She was a normal 6-pounds, 5-onces at birth. But a tumor in the pituitary gland triggered unusual growth. By the sixth grade, she was 6 1/2 feet tall, and towered over her teacher.
"We had a graduation party at a skating ring and I was the only kid who couldn't participate," she said. "My feet were too big to rent skates. I just wanted to be like other girls." Allen couldn't get behind the wheel of a car when it came time to take driver's ed. No boy would dance with her. "They called me a beanpole, a monster, a freak. And that's what they said to my face," she said. "I could only imagine what they said behind my back." 'Why Not Go On TV And Make Some Money?'