READ EXCERPT: 'Medical Mysteries,' by Ann Reynolds and Kenneth Wapner

A Simple Wart?

Dede grew up in a remote village in Indonesia, a three-hour drive and two boat rides from Jakarta. His home is as green and lush as you can imagine -- fields planted with crops, sleepy dirt roads, palm trees, and flowering vines. His family fished for most of their food and lived a simple village life -- no running water or telephones. His mother's name is Engkar (we discovered that in Indonesia, almost everyone is known simply by one name). She says that when he was young, Dede was exactly the same as the other boys in the village, riding his bike and playing soccer with his friends.

Then a simple wart on Dede's teenaged knee seemed to be-come infected -- the family didn't understand why the problem wouldn't go away. He developed additional warts on his face and hands.

"The children teased me," says Dede. "But my family protected me."

As is custom in Dede's village, he married young, before he was twenty.

"When Dede was getting married, he was a normal guy with normal hands and feet," says his father, Ateng. He could do anything with his hands, they told us, and worked building and repairing houses, providing for a growing family. It was after the birth of his first child, a son, Entis,that the warts started to spread; after the birth of his second child, a daughter, Entang, they grew all over his body, and the warts on his hands in-creased in size.

Dede and his family are Muslim -- at the mosque they prayed for him to get better. But Dede's condition only worsened. His legs, face, arms, chest, and especially his hands and feet be-came covered with growths. On his hands and feet, they grew into what looked like roots -- long, curving spurs six or seven inches long. He began to look like the trees surrounding his house.

Dede stopped going to the mosque because people stared at him. In fact, he stopped going out altogether. He could barely lift his hands or feet, which were now about fifteen inches in circumference. He couldn't feed or dress himself, and his parents took him to a local doctor for treatment. They cut off some warts -- to no avail.

"Fifteen days after the operation, they grew back and spread," says Dede's father. The next bit of medical advice? "The doctor offered the solution -- to cut [off] both of his hands," says Dede's mother. "I was so sad."

His parents decided to take Dede home -- no amputations.

A Perfect Storm

His wife asked for a divorce because Dede couldn't work any-more.

"I accepted the decision," his father says. "We weren't angry. As a parent, because I love my son, I said okay, if he wants to move in with us, that's our duty as parents. He came to live at our house." The children went to live with Dede's sister-in-law.

Dede stayed cloistered in his parents' home. His sister went to work to support them. His mother made special shirts for him with ties at the side seams, because his hands, covered with "roots," couldn't fit through a normal sleeve. "I didn't go any-where. I stayed at home," says Dede.

Desperate to bring some money to the family, he did the only thing he could think of to survive: he went to a nearby city, Ban-dung, and begged on the streets.

What happened next, what most people would recoil at, would end up being the key to his medical treatment. Because Dede was about to become famous.

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