This little girl from Huzhu, China’s Sichuan Province, looks like an ordinary preschooler. Except she is actually 19 years old! Zeng Yushan apparently suffers from a rare medical condition that caused her to stop growing at the age of seven.
When she was seven years old, Zeng was diagnosed with a tumor on her pituitary gland, which caused a deficiency in growth hormones. While the condition is treatable, her parents unfortunately couldn’t afford it. Instead, they fought bitterly and divorced, leaving Zeng in the care of her father Yul Wei.
Shortly after the divorce, Yul was also diagnosed with a serious illness. Unable to pay for either of their medical bills, the father and daughter duo were forced to beg on the streets. They frequently traveled from their home to the cities of Zigong, Chengdu, and Guiyang, in the hope that Zeng’s unusual appearance would earn them some cash.
Disaster struck once again in Zeng’s life in 2013, when her father died of gastric cancer, leaving her to fend for herself. Fortunately, she was spotted by a kind couple who had two grown-up daughters of their own, and decided to take her in.
Guo Liu, 50, said that at first he and his wife were unsure of Zeng’s gender because she had no hair, and her physical condition was quite bad. They soon discovered the truth – that she was actually a teenager with the mental capacity of a five or six-year-old child. The kindhearted couple is now making sure that she is receiving the medical care she needs.
“We plan to take her after the Spring Festival to a doctor in the capital Beijing who might be able to help her,” said Guo. “For the moment she is okay with us, but we want to try and get into a position where she might be able to do something for herself when we are no longer able to look after her.”
Zeng seems to have taken a liking to her new parents, and she seems quite attached to them. She says that her biggest wish is to be able to go to school, but that seems impossible for now. Most schools are unlikely to take her in because of her real age.
“This wouldn’t happen in the West, as paediatricians would be vigilant towards it,” said Ashley Grossman, professor of endocrinology at Oxford University. “Pituitary tumors in childhood are very uncommon. One in 1,000 adults has one and they are less common in children. Some have a gene defect or a faulty gene.”
Professor Grossman explained that the condition used to be treated using the pituitary glands of cadavers and dead people, but that led to several complications. “But luckily now we have artificial growth hormones that can be injected once a day.”
“If you lose growth hormones you lose other hormones and you don’t ever go through puberty, so you can have side effects like losing hair,” he added. He also said Zeng’s response to treatment would depend on the age and condition of her bones.
“Whether anything can be done for her now is unclear. It depends on her bone age. I assume she didn’t go through puberty so she didn’t make sex hormones. In that case her bones will have fused. If the bones have an age of eight or nine, she could respond to treatment, if she has bones that have an age of 14, she probably won’t grow anymore.”
“In China, treatment for pituitary problems is not routinely available unless you pay for it. Pituitary patients often don’t get the help they need,” Professor Grossman said. But if possible, he did agree that treatment for Zeng would certainly be worth trying.
Source: Daily Mail