WARNING — graphic picture content:
A 23-year-old Indian woman in Amravati gave birth to a baby girl by cesarean section that astonished her doctors: the baby was completely covered in thick, white plates instead of a normal skin. The 3.9 lb newborn suffered from a disease called Harlequin Ichthyosis, which is caused by a rare genetic defect that affects the skin’s formation.
It causes the skin to grow so quickly that the top layer is extremely thick. This leads the baby to form plates of horn-like armor that split deeply when they are too dry. Because the skin is far too tight, the tiny baby’s eyelids and lips are turned inside out. Normally, this condition can be detected as early as the fourth month of pregnancy. But because this baby’s family came from desperately poor circumstances, they could not afford prenatal exams that would have discovered the problem.
According to the Indian doctors, it was a miracle that the girl even survived birth: Her condition was critical. Three days after being born, the baby sadly passed away as a result of blood poisoning, despite doctor’s best efforts. The parents were devastated over the loss of their special child, called her “a gift from God.” They decided to donate the baby’s body to science so that this rare disease may be better understood, in the hopes of helping those who suffer from it.
With intensive maintenance, living with the disease, which occurs in only one of every 300,000 births, is possible, however. This requires bathing multiple times daily to soften and remove the quickly growing horn-like skin layers also perpetual reapplication of moisturizer. A 23-year-old American who suffers from the genetic defect has even brought two healthy children into the world.