A Bangladeshi mad dubbed the "Tree Man" as huge warts, that resemble bark, grow on his hands and feet has undergone the first of many procedures to have the debilitating warts removed. Abul Bajandar has become a reluctant celebrity in his home village based in the southern province of Khulna with people coming from far and wide to stare at his unusual illness.
The former rickshaw driver has been in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka in the last week while surgeons operated to remove some of the growths from the palm of his right hand. It was the first of up to 15 procedures that the 25-year-old will undergo at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital with doctors hoping to remove the ugly warts without damaging nerves.
His illness has been diagnosed as 'epidermodysplasia verruciformis', a skin condition which affects just two other known people in the world and causes scaly growths to appear from the hands and feet.
In total he has around five kilograms of warts on both hands and feet but lead plastic surgeon Samanta Lal Sen has conceded that the operation may not halt the growths as there is no known cure for the disease. The keen cyclist first noticed the growths a decade ago and tried to cut them off himself at the time but said it was extremely painful.
"The first operation has given me hope," the father-of-one told AFP from Dhaka Medical College Hospital. "I don't want to return to my village without clearing my hands and feet. I want to get back to my old life."
Bajandar initially went to a village specialist but claimed that the treatment of herbal medicine only made things worse. Doctors have waived the cost of the expensive surgery, and are currently investigating whether the procedure can successfully be carried out without causing any long-term damage.
"Initially, I thought that they were harmless," said Bajandar. "But slowly I lost all my ability to work. There are now dozens of 2in-3in roots in both my hands, and there are some small ones in my leg."
In March 2007, a similar case was revealed involving a Romanian man, Ion Toader. Toader went through surgery six years later, and has since been generally cured, albeit with small relapses.