A Rosehearty resident has spoken to the Fraserburgh Herald about a 12-year ordeal which has resulted in his left leg being profoundly disfigured and weighing more than two stone.
Michael Cull, who has lived in the Aberdeenshire village for 10 years, struggles to walk because of the condition and even been subjected to pointing, name-calling, harassment and ridicule from passers-by when he leaves his house.
Michael first noticed symptoms starting to develop in 2002, after he was hit by a car whilst living in London. After the car accident, doctors told Michael he had lymphedema and that the condition was not life-threatening.
In the twelve years since, the 66-year-old has been seen by numerous doctors and specialists across the UK.
But it was not until last year, during an appointment with a specialist in Dundee, that Michael’s condition was finally diagnosed.
The doctor told Michael he believed the condition to be ‘elephantiasis’, a disease more common in Third World countries which has no known cure. Michael was also told at the same time that he had kidney problems which could, according to doctors, be caused by the elephantiasis.
The condition affects Michael’s left leg all the way from his toes to his hip. Now weighing more than two stone, his leg continues to swell and is starting to become painful.
Doctors believe the cause of the elephantiasis may be due to a parasite which lay dormant in Michael’s leg since childhood, having been brought up in Quinta, near to the Venezuelan border, until the age of 12.
During his formative years, Michael was told by nuns at the missionary school which he attended that he survived a plane crash in the Amazon area in 1948, while still a baby. He has no idea who his birth parents were, or even their nationality. Along with his adoptive parents, Michael moved to London when he was 12 years old.
During an interesting and varied career, Michael worked on the Apollo 11 space programme as a contractor.
The former computer technician is now waiting to see a vascular surgeon in Aberdeen - but has been waiting for 10 months, since he last saw a specialist. Michael does not know if the NHS will pay for any possible operation.
Michael blames a number of systemic problems, both north and south of the border, for the failure to receive treatment for his leg.
Commenting, Michael said: “After the doctors referred me to Aberdeen Infirmary, I had elastic stockings which kept splitting, I had scans, MRI scans and CAT scans, and I had no idea what they were for.
“But I did get a referral to a specialist in Dundee and he said they had never seen this in the UK before and it looks like elephantiasis.”
“People have said why don’t you look into treatment abroad but I shouldn’t have to because I’ve paid into the system my whole life,” he added.