'Turtle boy' undergoes successful surgery to remove huge mole

PHOTO: 'Turtle boy' undergoes successful surgery to remove huge mole

He was dubbed 'turtle boy' and made fun of because of a huge mole on his back that gave him the appearance of having a shell on his back.

In its Body Shock Special, Channel 4 (C4) reported on the sad story of Didier Montalvo, 6, who was suffering from a rare condition called Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (CMN).

These are moles that are found in infants at birth and are usually larger in diameter.

It is said that the rare birthmark affects about one in 20,000 babies born, but a top surgeon described Didier's case as the worst he'd ever seen, the Mirror UK reported.

The little boy suffered greatly from the huge growth, which had stretched to cover more than half of his body's circumference.

Not only did it affect his confidence and make daily life difficult, it was also painfully itchy.

In the C4 exclusive, he said: 'I want to grow up, but the mole won't let me.'

Adding to his difficulties was the ostracisation he and his mother received from the villagers in his home in his rural village hometown.

Didier and his mother Luz had to live apart from their neighbours because they feared the boy was touched by evil forces, the UK television show revealed.

They accused his mother of having looked at a solar eclipse while pregnant, thus causing the boy's condition.

As a result, the youngster has not been able to be baptised or attend school.

And what's worse, it was growing ever bigger every day. Specialists who looked at his case feared the nevus (mole) would soon turn malignant or affect his brain.

A chance at a normal life

A chance at a normal life

However, now he has a chance at a normal life thanks to leading plastic surgeon Neil Bulstrode and his team of specialists.

The surgeon was so moved by Didier's plight that he flew to Colombia to operate on Didier for free.

What he saw gave him a shock. "Effectively three quarters of the circumference of his body was affected," he said.

Didier's mother Luz was too poor to afford the operation, despite fearing for her son's life as there was a chance that the growth could turn malignant.

The family was unable to raise money until his story was published in a local newspaper. The report brought in a good amount of donations, allowing a Colombian medical team to be assembled in an attempt to carry out a risky operation that would not only save the boy’s life, but rid the family of social exclusion.

The team of doctors had to carry out a complicated series of skin grafts over several stages even before beginning to operate on him.

The operation was made even more difficult by the size and protruding shape of the mole.

"Often, people who have CMN that are much flatter, and therefore much easier to care for and deal with," Dr Bulstrode told reporters.

The story has a happy ending: The mole was successfully removed and he is now able to live the life of a normal child.

Dr Bulstrode told the Evening Standard that while Didier has had to go through a number of painful operations, the end results have proved that it was all worth it.

He expressed pleasure looking at photos of how Didier is getting on well, and said he's happy with how things have turned out.

The cause of Didier's condition is still unknown. However, experts have said it may be due to a gene mutation triggering a change in the development of skin cells in the embryo.