All I want is to be normal says Indian Octoboy
When Deepak Kumar Paswan was born with a parasitic twin growing out of his chest, doctors warned he wouldn't live more than a few days. Incredibly, he survived and despite having seven limbs he appears perfectly healthy today.
But while he is worshipped as a God by some in his village, the tragic eight-year-old is terrified of going out alone after being attacked by an angry mob who fear he brings bad luck. And now he's desperate for surgery to remove his dead twin so he can start to live a normal life.
"It's heartbreaking the way he's treated. He's suffered his whole life. All Deepak wants to do is run inside and hide. We just want to raise enough money for him to have an operation to remove his twin so he can live a normal life." says Deepak's dad Veeresh sadly.
Incredibly, when Deepak's mum Indu was pregnant with him she had no idea he'd been born so deformed. Doctors believe Deepak's identical twin didn't separate from him inside his mother's womb, leaving him with two fully formed legs and a stunted, deformed arm growing from his chest.
When she gave birth in a remote Indian village eight years ago, doctors told her he'd die within days.
"When they handed me my baby I was devastated," says mum Indu, 36. "I didn't know how to hold him and believed he'd never survive.
"I wrapped him up so that he would not move and injure himself - and he looked so normal - he cried and slept and did everything like a normal baby - until we undressed him for a bath or to change his clothes - and this deformity was there."
Despite weighing just five pounds four ounces, he stunned medics to reach his first birthday and learned to walk shortly after. Dad Veeresh said: "He found it hard to crawl - walking was much easier to get around for him."
He was also speaking at just over one - and although he had difficulty sleeping comfortably the family did their best to overlook the deformity in their baby: "He is after all our lovely wonderful little boy," said mum Indu wrapping her arms tenderly - and carefully round him.
She said: "From the first other kids avoided him because their parents told them to - and when he started to mix he soon realized he was different and was not allowed to join in. He was only two when he came in crying telling us he wanted his extra limbs removed - and telling us he did not want to be different - but what could we do - we could not even make the trip to the hospital."
Other than the extra limbs Deepak is a good looking little boy, although withdrawn. His parents say he is intelligent yet at school he tends to be withdrawn - not wanting to attract attention to himself. But he listens - and always does well in lessons. "I'd love to play football," sighs Deepak. "But I've never been able to because it hurts to knock the extra limbs - if they are bumped up and down or bent if I fall over - its painful.
"I can't lie on my stomach, run or do anything where I might fall over." All the time he can fell sensations from the limbs - and sometimes they will twitch with small spasms - but they do not move on their own and he can't control them. He is a single child and goes to school every day, but is taunted by the other children, who grab his extra limbs and pinch them.
"He tries to play it down and pretend it doesn't hurt, but we've seen him cry out in pain," says Veeresh. "The problem is that the limbs should not be there - so they are not fixed to bones and tendons and so on - if he were to get a sharp knock the skin could tear - and it is painful to jar them - he only has one position comfortable for sleeping which is on his side - he can't lie on his back or stomach."
He is cruelly snubbed by the other children in his village, who refuse to play with him. "He has no," says Indu. "All he gets is abuse. They call him nasty names such as horse boy when they're bored.
Though Deepak is relatively healthy, his parasitic twin often suffers skin infections that itch and he scratches them constantly although the biggest problem is the isolation he feels.
When he goes out in public Deepak is forced to hide his deformity by wearing loose clothing and now fears for his life as not everyone accepts his bizarre condition.
Recently he's been targeted by angry mobs that gather when one person starts shouting and singles him out and others follow like sheep and he now refuses to go out alone.
"People think he's cursed and brings bad luck," explains Deepak. "He once had to run for his life because someone tried to get a mob to stone him - saying he was to blame for a lack of rain or some such nonsense. Luckily our neighbors have a lot of tolerance for him and we are relatively safe in our village although he's nervous - but we don't go places where people don't know him."
"He's forced to avoid crowds."
Deepak's only hope for a normal life is a major operation to remove his parasitic twin.
The life-threatening procedure would take up to 30 hours and costs £50,000. Surgeons will need to remove not only the limbs but cut into the body to remove the parts of the twin living inside him. Blood vessels will need to be re-laid and the doctors have no idea what they will find when they cut him open until they can do tests - and how much "rebuilding" they will have to do. Like all surgery it could be risky - and with such a major surgery could even be fatal.
But his desperate parents are willing to take the risk and offer it in the hands of the gods.
"At the moment Deepak doesn't have a life," says Indu, sobbing. "It breaks my heart that he's so isolated because he can not mix with friends - people stare at his extra limbs - make protective signs - they don't see him as I do - as a little boy - lonely - in need of love, friends and understanding. And my husband and I have so much to do - it makes it so hard to show him how special he is and to do something about it - but we do our best - we will never give up.
"For his part there is no doubt of what he wants. I am tired of being different," says Deepak. "I just want to live normally."
Deepak has had a successful surgery and donations for him are now closed. We thank all those who donated. You can read about Deepak's surgery here.
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