Abul Bajandar, the 25-year-old Bangladeshi man known around the world as “Tree Man,” has successfully undergone his first surgery to trim back some of the bark-like warts on his hands and feet.
Bajandar went under the knife on February 20 at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital for three hours. It was the first of many surgeries he will have to endure before the hard lesions on his hands and feet are successfully removed.
“I want to live like a normal person,” Bajandar told CNN. “I just want to be able to hold my daughter properly and hug her.”
Since the growths started 10 years ago, Bajandar has increasingly needed help and support from his 21-year-old wife, Halima, and three-year-old daughter to eat, drink, and perform normal daily activities. All of these things were made extremely difficult by the 11 pounds of hard, coarse growths on his body.
Bajandar’s condition stems from a rare autosomal recessive skin disorder called Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis (EV). His EV was then triggered by the human papillomavirus (HPV) that caused the wart lesions across his body. Bajandar is believed to be only the fourth person in the world to be affected by growths such as these.
The operation will give Bajandar the use of his fingers for the first time in around seven years. Medication that local doctors prescribed proved useless, but Bajandar’s fame grew after pictures of him surfaced online in early 2015. That’s when Dr. Samanta Lal Sen, president of the Society of Plastic Surgeons in Bangladesh, decided to take action. Unable to pay for the expansive surgery on his own, the government has taken on the costs.
Nine doctors took to Bajandar’s right hand with a laser as journalists and Bajandar’s family waited outside. Layer by layer, the doctors burned off the dead tissue that gives Bajandar’s skin its characteristic bark-like appearance. A guard stood outside the operating room, controlling the media frenzy.
“We have taken out bulk from his right hand,” Sen said after the operation. “Now it needs to be trimmed further after a few weeks. Then we have his left hand and the feet to operate, followed by skin grafting on all of them.”
It will take anywhere from six months to a year to complete all of the surgeries. Whether Bajandar’s life will return to normal, however, is uncertain since there is no known cure for the disease and doctors aren’t sure if — or how quickly — the growths will return. Regardless of the final outcome, though, Bajandar is happy to finally have his hand back.
“I feel content,” he said. “I feel lighter.”