A Florida man has begged doctors for an amputation after a rare medical condition left him with feet twice the average size.
Jeffrey Ortega, 26, wants his left, size-16 foot removed because of the constant pain that stems from the overgrowth, according to U.K. Daily Mail.
Ortega suffers from Proteus syndrome, a condition that only affects roughly 200 people worldwide. The condition causes bone, skin and tissue overgrowth, and it makes walking painful and difficult.
The Deerfield Beach, Florida, man said amputation of his left foot will relieve his pain and stop the growth in that area.
Proteus syndrome is caused by a mutation in a gene that causes some of the body’s cells to grow and divide abnormally. For Ortega, this abnormality began shortly after birth.
“My mother noticed my swollen right index finger when I was only 9 months old,” he said. “She thought it was a mosquito bite and tried homemade remedies but it didn’t work.”
A few months later, the family began noticing more concerns.
“(W)hen I was 1, my father noticed my left leg was a little longer than my right,” Ortega told the Daily Mail.
Then, growths began to develop on Ortega’s feet. By age 11, he had stopped wearing regular shoes and could wear only custom socks and shoes.
“I was bullied a lot in school, kids would spit on me and said I wore my dad’s shoes,” he said. “I also fell a lot and was eventually pulled out of school because the principal didn’t want to take any chances with me. It was nerve-racking for my family.”
In 2005, teenage Ortega was given special shoes by the National Institutes of Health that fit his overgrown feet.
“They agreed to treat me and perform surgery on me, if I allowed them to use me for research about Proteus syndrome,” he explained.
After four years of use, the special shoes are starting to fall apart, forcing Ortega to search for others.
“It’s very sad to me to go to a store and see my family find shoes easily,” he said.
Ortega first asked doctors about amputation five years ago, but changed his mind out of fear. Now, after 11 failed surgical attempts to fix his feet, Ortega has decided that facing those fears and amputating his painful foot is the best solution.
The entire procedure, including surgery, prosthetics, and follow up physical therapy, will cost around $42,000. Ortega will have to pay the full amount.
To help pay for the surgery, he has started a GoFundMe page, and had raised about $9,300 by Friday afternoon. He remains hopeful though, as “having the amputation would improve my life so much,” he said.
We’re hopeful, too. We’ve seen what Conservative Tribune readers have done on GoFundMe when they read about someone in need.
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