The World's Tallest Man
Leonid Stepanovych Stadnyk
Pituitary Giantism, Gigantism
Leonid Stadnyk is a giant, he's eight foot four inches tall, but he doesn't want a place in the record books, he wants help. He's tall because of a huge tumour under his brain. A tumour which, if it carries on growing, will kill him. One of the world's leading specialists is going to meet Leonid to see if he can save the life of the tallest man in the world.
The Ukraine is a newly independent country that used to be part of the Soviet Union. 200km from the capital Kiev is a little town known, in Ukrainian, as Place of Wonders. Just outside this town is a village so tiny it's not on any map and in this very small village is a very small house and in this very small house is the tallest man in the world; Leonid Stadnyk. Leonid is 36 years old, but as a child he was average height.
Far from Leonid's isolated existence, there are now, in the West, tall clubs where some of the world's most vertiginous people can gather and look one another in the eye, To be a member of Tall Clubs International a man must be over 6' 2" and a woman must be over 5' 10".
There's a woman from Shelbyville, Indiana who towers over all the other members of the tall club. Sandy Allen has, for years, held the record of the world's tallest woman at seven foot seven inches. The reason Sandy is so tall is a frightening one, because to get this tall, chances are you are seriously ill. She had a tumour in her pituitary gland which has been surgically removed.
Like Sandy, Leonid is a giant because of a pituitary tumour, but unlike Sandy, Leonid has never had surgery to remove the tumour so his life is in danger.
One of the world's leading experts in the treatment of pituitary giantism is the Harley Street specialist Professor Michael Besser "Pituitary giantism is due to excessive growth hormone secretion from the pituitary gland". The pituitary gland might be tiny but, its vitally important. It manufactures most of the hormones that keep the body functioning normally, including growth hormone.
When a tumour grows on the pituitary gland, because of the proximity to the optic nerve, it can cause blindness and in some cases brain damage. In cases if pituitary giantism the gland responds by pumping out more and more growth hormone.
If you grow to a height of seven feet or more, the entire body begins to fail under the strtain. The knees and spine begin to crumble and the internal organs begin to struggle with the increased workload. Many untreated patients have died of heart failure. Pituitary giantism can be treated, but the treatments are not available everywhere,
The first line of treatment is surgery, a procedure called a transphenoidal operation in which surgeons gain access to the pituitary by going through the nose. They break through into the space beneath the brain and, avoiding the optic nerve, scoop out the offending tumour. If the tumour is small there's and 80% chance of success, when the tumour is large that reduces to 20%. It then rquires medication to replace or balance the hormone production.
The tallest man who ever lived was Robert Pershing Wadlow of London. He was a pituitary giant of eight feet eleven inches, He died at the age of 22 from heart failure.
After he left school, Leonid Stadnyk studied and qualified as a veterinary surgeon and worked on the local collective farm. As he grew taller it became more difficult and as his condition worsened he could no longer travel to work.
While his mother was in hospital, Leonid was persuaded to give a blood sample and this along with his medical record was sent to Professor Besser. What the records reveal is that when he was 12 years old, his Ukrainian doctors did discover that he had a pituitary tumour but, they were less interested in the effect of the growth hormone levels than they were in the damage it was doing to the brain.
A large tumour can cause hydrocephalus. The tumour blocks the circulatory movement of fluid around the brain. Surgeons did insert a shunt to allow the fluid to drain, but they never touched the tumour. The reports are confusing, they appear to indicate that Leonid has had the tumour removed but, there's no record of any surgery.
Professor Besser visited the Medical Centre in Kiev where Leonid had originally been operated on and where doctors had more recently taken blood samples and carried out an MRI scan. Professor Besser was amazed to discover thet the growth hormone levels were normal and whre the tumour should have been on the scan was only a small smudge, The tumour had died off on its own which was very fortunate as the growth, as it had been, would have been inoperable.
CREDITS: All of the above information came from the UK television's Channel 5 Extraordinary People series
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