When I heard rumors of a new contender for the world’s tallest man in northern Ghana, I set out to find out if it was true. The only problem? measure it.
A local hospital in northern Ghana told 29-year-old Suleiman Abdul Samad during one of his last check-ups that he had reached a height of 9 feet 6 inches (2.89 m).
This would have made him the tallest man in the world, but there was a catch – the rural clinic wasn’t sure of his height because they didn’t have the right measuring tools.
Diagnosed with gigantism a few years ago, the young man was attending a monthly appointment to deal with the complications of living as a gigantic when he was told to stand upright on a measuring rod.
“You slept taller than a scale,” a shocked nurse told him.
Known by his nickname Awuche, which means “let’s go” in the Hausa language, everyone was appalled by the spectacle he was causing.
He wasn’t surprised to hear it was taller, since it never stopped growing – but it did cause the staff, who were not prepared for such a scenario, to panic.
The nurse on duty called her colleague, who in turn asked someone else for help. It wasn’t long until a group of nurses and health aides got together to solve the mystery of determining his height.
Someone suggested finding a pole and using it as an extension over the stick to measure its height – in this way they arrived at their estimate.
When I first encountered Osh a few months ago while traveling in northern Ghana, where its fame spreads across the region’s grasslands, I didn’t have a tape measure to check its length.
So in order to straighten it out—and armed with a 16-foot tape measure—I went back to Gambaga Village last week.
The plan was to have him lean against a wall, mark it with the crown of his head and then mark his height using tape measure.
“The way they measure me, I can’t say everything is right,” O’Shea admitted—happy at my plan to get an accurate measurement.
It turned out to be taller than most of the houses in his neighborhood, but after a good search we found a suitable building with a wall high enough.
He took off his shoes – slip-ons specially made from car tires and nailed to him by a local handyman because he could not find shoes to fit.
A neighbor climbed on a wooden stool to reach O’Shea’s height so he could mark the wall with a piece of coal.
After checking the line, we tightly extended the tape measure from the marked line to the ground while Awuche looked on in anticipation.
“Whew,” I said, “the tape measure reads 7 feet 4 inches.”
Smiling with his unique smile, he replied: Wow, so what does that mean?
“Well, the tallest man alive is 8 feet 2.8 inches, and he’s barely a foot taller than you.”
I was referring to 40-year-old Sultan Kösen, who lives in Turkey and He holds the current Guinness World Record.
“I’m still my height. Who knows, maybe one day I might reach that height, too,” Ochs said — not at all upset by the discrepancy with the number the hospital gave him.
“Every three out of four months I grow… If you haven’t seen me for three or four months and you’ve seen me, you’ll realize I’ve grown,” he explains.
This increase in height began to become noticeable when he was 22 years old and living in the capital, Accra.
Osh moved there to try his luck in the city, where one of his brothers lives, after he finished high school.
He worked at a butcher’s shop, saved money to take lessons at a driving school.
But he woke up one morning confused: “I realized my tongue had grown so large in my mouth that I couldn’t breathe.” [properly]Tells.
He visited a local pharmacy to get some medication, but after days he realized that every other part of his body was starting to increase in size.
When family and friends from his village visit the city, they all notice his growth spurt, and at this point he realizes that he is gradually turning into a giant.
He began to outgrow everyone – and sought medical help as the growth brought other complications.
He was left with an abnormally curved spine, which is a prominent symptom of his condition, Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissues.
It results in abnormally long limbs.
More serious complications include heart defects.
Doctors say he needs surgery on his brain to stop the growth.
But public healthcare insurance in Ghana cannot cover this, providing only basic treatment.
He still has to collect around $50 (£40) for each hospital visit.
His health problems eventually forced him to return to his village six years ago and give up his dreams of becoming a driver.
“I was planning on going to driving school, but even when I put the seat back in, I can’t hold the steering wheel… I can’t extend my legs because my knee would knock on the steering wheel.”
He now lives with his brother – and makes it through after starting a small business that sells cellphone credits.
His height also curtailed his social life.
“I used to play football like any other young man, I was athletic but now I can’t even walk short distances,” he explained.
But Oshii didn’t let his problems get him down. He is full of spirit as his tall, thin frame weaves through the dirt lanes of the village – smiling as people call him.
He is a bit of a local celebrity.
A group of old people sitting next to a shed exchanging pleasantries, children waving, and some women coming out to hug and joke with him.
Some people want to take selfies with him – even strangers come up to ask if he’s the giant they saw on social media.
“I usually say, ‘Yeah, come closer — we stand and take nice pictures,'” says O’Shea.
He is extremely grateful to his family for their emotional support, saying he knows of no other relatives, including his three brothers, who show any sign of having his condition.
“None of them are tall, I’m just the tallest guy.”
He would love to get married and have kids one day but wants to focus first on getting his health in order.
His first priority is trying to raise money for plastic surgery to deal with a serious skin complaint on a leg, ankle and foot caused by an overgrown limb.
But looking at his bandaged toes, Och refuses to be discouraged by his predicament.
“This is how God chose it for me, I’m fine. I don’t have a problem with the way God created me.”
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