A Florida man says he’s spent most of his life feeling as though he is ‘walking on glass’ due to a genetic mutation that has left him with large masses on the soles of his feet.
Jeffrey Ortega, 30, from Deerfield Beach, Florida was born with Proteus syndrome, a rare condition that causes bone, tissues and skin to overgrow.
The growths have mainly affected Ortega’s feet – his left foot measures at least 17 inches in circumference while his right foot is about 14.5 inches in circumference – about twice the size of a regular foot.
Oretga says he is in constant agony and often uses a wheelchair. When he does walk around, it’s typically barefoot because no shoes fit him.
He was recently saw renowned podiatrist Dr Brad Schaeffer on an episode of TLC’s My Feet Are Killing Me in hopes of getting custom-made shoes that will relieve him of his pain.
Jeffrey Ortega, 30, of Deerfield Beach, Florida, appeared on Thursday’s episode of TLC’s My Feet Are Killing Me with his mother, Alicia. Pictured: Ortega, left, with his mother
Ortega was born with a rare condition called Proteus syndrome, which causes bone, tissues and skin to overgrow. Pictured: Ortega’s affected feet
In a 2015 interview with BarcroftTV, Ortega said his mother first noticed that he had a swollen right index finger at nine months old but assumed it was from a mosquito bite.
At age one, his father noticed his left leg was longer than his right leg.
Soon enough, growths started to develop at the bottom and on the sides of his feet and he was soon diagnosed with Proteus syndrome.
It is a very rare condition in which the bones, skin and other tissues overgrow out of proportion to the rest of the body.
This overgrowth is usually asymmetrical, so corresponding body parts are not affected in the same way.
The syndrome is usually caused by a mutation to the ATK1 gene, which helps regulate cell growth, cell division and death.
Some people with Proteus syndrome have neurological abnormalities, including intellectual disability, seizures, and vision loss.
The condition is so rare that it occurs in less than one in one million people worldwide, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Treatment varies but it usually involves several procedures to control the overgrowth.
Ortega stopped being able to wear kids’ shoes at age 11 and would either wear his father’s shoes or just socks.
‘I was bullied a lot in school, kids would spit on me and said I wore my dad’s shoes,’ he told BarcroftTV.
‘I also fell a lot and was eventually pulled out of school because the principal didn’t want to take any chances with me. It was nerve-wracking for my family.’
Huge masses have grown on the soles of Ortega’s feet, which measure between 14.5 and 17 inches in circumference. Ortega says no shoes fit him and he often walks around in socks or bare feet. Pictured: Ortega as a kid, left, and right in 2015
Dr Brad Schaeffer, a podiatrist, at his office in New Jersey, who took molds of Ortega’s feet in the hopes of creating a custom shoot that will allow him to walk without being in pain. Pictured: Dr Schaeffer examining Ortega’s feet
In 2015, Ortega said he wanted his left foot amputated.
Doctors agreed to perform the surgery if Ortega paid for the procedure in full, which would have cost about $40,000 for the actual operation, prosthetics and physical therapy.
He raised $45,700 on a GoFundMe page but the amputation never occurred for reasons that are unclear.
In TLC’s episode that aired on Thursday, Ortega visited Dr Schaeffer, a podiatrist, at his office in New Jersey with his mother, Alicia.
‘There’s excessive growth with the bones and the tissues, so what we need to do just make Jeff comfortable, and answer all his questions and try to help him out,’ Dr Schaeffer said.
The doctor discovered that Ortega’s left foot is still growing, and stated that he cannot walk around barefoot anymore because he could get serious infections.
Ortega said he doesn’t move around too much and the he can walk but when he does ‘it feels like I’m walking on glass. It’s very unpleasant.’
Dr Schaeffer rejected the idea of an amputation because he believes there could be additional bone growth after the surgery.
Instead, he took molds of Ortega’s feet in the hopes of creating a custom shoe that will allow him to walk without being in pain.