Meet the Boy Too Big for His Mom’s SUV
Aug 19, 2008 ?? – Ellensburg, Washington, is home to a truly unique young man: Brenden Adams, 12, who is over seven feet tall and, incredibly, continues to grow taller.
He towers over his classmates and even his teacher, Gretchen Holmstrom, who joked, “I’m 5’9”, so I never watch sixth graders – until this year… never say never!
And while friends say Brenden is just an ordinary kid, he’s obviously not like the others. He has to go through most doors and sit on his side at his school desk because his knees don’t go underneath.
In his mother’s sport utility vehicle, he has to fold down the second row of seats, sit in the third row, and extend his legs in the middle row to sit comfortably. His size ? 18 years old and still growing.
Not just a big kid
Brenden is one of a kind, and it’s not just her size. Everything about him is different. His mother, Debbie Ezell, said he needed a team of doctors and multiple doctor’s visits just to stay on top of his ever-changing and expanding cadre. He has huge joints, fatty tumors, and even extra teeth, 12 of which were recently extracted.
Surprisingly, his father, Willie Adams, said there was no clue of any of this when Brenden was born at 7 pounds, 3 ounces and 19 1/2 inches in length. Her mom says they started noticing something was different during her 2 month checkup. “They said these measurements are just not correct. It’s too long,” Ezell said. “And at four months old he had all his teeth.”
Then mom and dad heard the news that any parent would dread. Doctors and medical experts told them that they had no idea what was causing the problem with their child. “I haven’t seen anyone like Brenden yet,” says Dr. Melissa Parisi, her geneticist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Parisi has been treating Brenden since he was four, when, she says, “he was the size of a typical 8-year-old boy.”
“I was terrified,” his father said, “and no one could ever tell us what the outcome would be or what the wait would be.”
Brenden’s mother agreed, “This is the worst… not knowing.”
For years, doctors continued to search for the source and answer to Brenden’s unstoppable growth. He underwent several tests and x-rays as medical experts tried to determine what was going on inside Brenden’s body.
Then, finally, a breakthrough – when Brenden was eight years old and already the size of an adult.
“I have to say that the hematologists and oncologists here actually helped us figure it out,” Parisi admits. “He has a very unusual rearrangement of his genetic material. It’s called an inversion of chromosome 12 and it affects every cell in his body.”
Chromosomes, you may remember, come in pairs. But in Brenden’s case, his 12th chromosomes don’t match. Somehow – experts still don’t know why – the middle of one ruptured, rolled over and re-attached, disrupting a critical gene that controls the growth. And it’s what experts believe is what caused Brenden’s overgrowth and other symptoms and what makes her case one of a kind.
“This gene works despite regulation that it shouldn’t be,” said Dr. Gad Kletter, Brenden’s endocrinologist at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. “It’s over-functional. It was predicted to be over eight feet tall.”
Ending the never-ending growth spurt
Now that the medics finally figured out what was causing Brenden’s skyrocketing, they had yet another mystery to unravel: How to stop him? And since Brenden is believed to be the only person in the world with the disease, there was no clear answer.
Then Kletter came up with an idea that seemed a little crazy: injections of testosterone to jumpstart puberty and speed up Brenden’s growth. It’s puberty, he explained, that signals the body to stop growing.
“We caused puberty,” Kletter explained, “to fuse the bones and stop the growth.”
And for now, the shots seem successful. Brenden’s growth slowed.
Living with a giant
To make life a little easier at home, Brenden’s mother had a house built especially to fit someone of Brenden’s enormous proportions.
“It’s a lot easier to go through the doors and stuff than the last house we had,” said Brenden. “The doors are much higher and so are the ceilings.”
Coincidentally, the day ABC News visited Brenden’s school, her class was working on an introspection exercise. Unsurprisingly, Brenden wrote that he wanted people to see “how he is like everyone else”.
Fortunately, some are already doing this.
“He’s really kind and caring,” said friend Tucker.
Her half-sister, Sierra, added, “She’s an extremely good person.”
What does the future hold for him?
“It’s unknown,” Kletter said. “No further cases are reported, nothing to look at – it’s an uncharted sea.”