Doctors are hopeful that Dede's quality of life can improve, most of all that he will be able to use his hands again. The medical team wants to use skin grafts to replace areas of skin that have been severely damaged by the wart growths. They'll be "harvesting" some undamaged skin from near his stomach. However, Gaspari cautions, there is a limit to what can be done.
"The most important part [of the surgeries] is to restore the function of his hands and feet," Hardi says. "He was given a tissue expander to grow more skin on his abdomen. I have explained to him and his family that it's unlikely that he's ever going to be completely cured of his condition. He has an internal health problem that is allowing this to happen, and he's going to be living with that health problem for the remainder of his life." Hardi adds that it will be a challenge to keep Dede in an improved state.
If all this is giving you the creeps, we can't offer much solace. Dr. Jaliman says the HPV virus is everywhere -- there's a reason they call it the "common" wart.
"If you have a micro-abrasion in your skin, which we all have, if you have a paper cut or you have anything, and there is a virus, it's going to go into your skin, and you're going to get it," Jaliman says. "Anybody can get a virus and that's why it spreads so easily, and that's why I treat so many warts in my practice."
Fortunately, Dede's condition does not seem to be hereditary, so his children and grandchildren don't appear to have inherited his illness. His children have loved him throughout, no matter what he's looked like.
At the end of the day, what struck us most was the gentle, accepting man behind the story. Decades of difficulty don't seem to have made him bitter. We interviewed Dede after the first of the series of surgeries -- which took away most of the "bark" and returned his feet and hands to a more human shape. He said his hands feel lighter, he can hold things with his thumb, and we watched as, with glee, he completed a crossword puzzle. He delights in the hope of an ordinary life. "I want to find a job, be able to hang out with friends," he says.
His parents say Dede has always left his fate to Allah. "I have accepted the condition and have asked God to give me strength," Dede says. "My spirit is lifted because of this operation. I'm very happy. I got my spirit back."
From "Medical Mysteries: From the Bizarre to the Deadly. . . The Cases That Have Baffled Doctors," by Ann Reynolds and Kenneth Wapner. Copyright © 2009 ABC News. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold.