Lifestyle & Human Interest

13-Year-Old Boy with Rare Skin Shedding Disorder Beats Odds After Doctors Predicted Early Death


The world is full of horrible diseases. Relatively well-known illnesses such as measles, polio, smallpox and mumps would turn your stomach if you saw advanced cases in the real world.

Then there’s the terrible exotic diseases such as cancrum oris (a flesh-eating disease of the mouth) and schistosomiasis (a parasitic illness that causes fever and bloody stools). But one young teen from Tampa, Florida, is suffering from a rare condition that has caused public ridicule since the day he was born.

Elio Figueredo was the third child of Janet Figueredo. According to the Daily Mail, no one anticipated any problems during her pregnancy or delivery.

“We weren’t expecting him to have any type of condition,” Figueredo said during an interview with Barcroft TV. “It was never detected.”

But Elio had a condition, one that became readily apparent shortly after his birth. Something seemed wrong with his skin.

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After trying an incubator and testing him for yeast and cystic fibrosis, medical professionals discovered that putting him in a humidifier helped. It turned out that Elio most likely had a form of ichthyosis.

“It was a surprise not just to me but also for the doctors,” Figueredo said. Ichthyosis is an umbrella term for a whole host of skin-related problems, the most common of which is ichthyosis vulgaris.

The Mayo Clinic reports that it is “an inherited skin disorder in which dead skin cells accumulate in thick, dry scales on your skin’s surface. The scales of ichthyosis vulgaris, sometimes called fish scale disease or fish skin disease, can be present at birth, but usually first appear during early childhood.”

The National Institutes of Health’s Genetics Home Reference detailed a more severe form of the disease. Dubbed harlequin ichthyosis, it often proves fatal.

In this more severe case, the thick, scaly skin becomes so rigid that deep cracks develop of the surface of the flesh. Sufferers face dehydration, difficulties regulating temperature and terrible infections.

Indeed, doctors didn’t believe that Elio would make it past the first 12 months, and originally thought he had cystic fibrosis. He proved them wrong, though.

After spending three years in a specialized medical facility, he was able to come home. However, his routine isn’t easy.

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In addition to taking biweekly bleach baths to stave off infection, he has to moisturize his skin every two to three hours. Sun exposure is a problem, too, as are quips from peers and passersby.

Now 13 years old, Elio says, “Every single day of my life, people make comments, but I don’t care anymore. I am at a point where it doesn’t matter if they say mean stuff.”

In fact, Elio steadfastly refuses to give in to despair. He loves to cook and wants to become a chef when he grows up.

“His cartoons were the Cooking Chanel,” Janet said. “I’ll come home, and he’ll have dinner ready.”

With his drive, resilience and positive attitude, Elio has been an encouragement to those around him. Hopefully someday in the future, he’ll be able to achieve his goals of becoming a chef.

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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