20 Medical Mysteries and Miracles

The man who survived a 500-foot fall. The toddler who doesn’t age. We’ve compiled 20 of the most extraordinary cases from the world of medicine.

The man who survived a 500-foot fall. The twin who lived inside his brothers belly for three decades. The toddler who doesnt age.

Medical history—recent and otherwise—is filled with jaw-dropping oddities, miraculous recoveries, and unsolved mysteries. There is more to these cases than shock value, however. What headlines call "miracles" are a testament to human resilience, and so-called medical mysteries remind us just how much we have to learn about the body and mind.

Weve compiled 20 of the most extraordinary cases from the world of medicine. Some of these stories may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but every one is true.

7 Mysterious Afflictions

The girl who doesnt age
Brooke Greenberg is 30 inches tall and weighs 30 pounds. She looks like a toddler and has the mind of a toddler—but she is actually 16 years old.

Her hair and nails are the only parts of her body that have grown since she was 4. Growth hormone therapy has had no effect, and doctors are baffled by her condition. Researchers have been studying her DNA in search of a genetic mutation that might unlock the fountain of youth that keeps her young. Her family, meanwhile, has accepted that Brooke will likely be a baby forever.

The girl who feels no pain
As much as it hurts, pain teaches us important lessons (not to touch a hot stove, for example). People with a rare genetic disorder known as hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy (HSAN) type V feel no pain, however, and may never learn those lessons.

Eight-year-old Gabby Gingras constantly and unwittingly injures herself, sometimes seriously. She has knocked out all but one of her adult teeth (which grew in early after doctors suggested pulling her baby teeth), and as a baby she scratched herself blind in her left eye. She now wears safety glasses and sleeps in swim goggles to protect her right eye. There is no cure for HSAN type V, but as people age and learn how to manage their condition, they can lead relatively normal lives.

Tree man
The arms, legs, and face of Indonesian Dede Kosawa are covered in bark-like warts, which have made him internationally famous and earned him the nickname Tree Man. Doctors believe the growths are caused by a type of human papillomavirus (HPV) that has been exacerbated by a genetic immune defect.

In 2007, Kosawa had 12 pounds of warts removed at an Indonesian hospital, and in February he underwent his ninth round of surgery. He now has better use of his hands and feet but will continue to need surgery every few months, as there is no known cure for his condition.

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Sarah Klein
Last Updated: September 21, 2009

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