28 Julio 2017 10:04
Although his disease is not contagious, his shocking appearance has led to rejection by everyone around him
Habib Ullah Khan suffers from an incurable condition that has covered his entire body in hundreds of lumps. His disorder poses no risk to his life, nor does it endanger others, but nonetheless, he lives in isolation from the rest of the world because everyone, strangers and friends alike, are afraid they might catch it.
Khan lives in Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous city, and at the young age of 10, small nodules began to creep across his abdomen. Now, at 56, these bumps have turned into a multitude of benign tumours that have spread across his hands, legs, neck and even his face.
He is often referred to as the ‘Bubble Man’. What most people don’t know is that he suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that affects the nervous system and causes the lumps. The disease affects one in every 3,000 newborns and, despite their alarming appearance, the ‘bubbles’ are neither carcinogenic nor contagious.
Nabi Soomro, director of the Institute of Skin Disease in Karachi, has stated that it is a condition that still has no cure because even if the tumors are surgically removed, since it is a genetic disorder, they grow back.
The widespread ignorance concerning neurofibromatosis and the prejudices his appearance engenders have left Habib with no option but to put up with being taunted by the general public. And sometimes stigma can be more painful than illness.
‘People have ridiculed me throughout my life. No one likes looking at me or being near to me. People think I will infect everything. Many landlords don't want me living in their property, and I’ve had to move many times,’ he explained.
Khan goes out into the street just once or twice a week and tries to avoid his neighbours finding out about his disorder. Forced to leave school at an early age and beg in the street, he says that even his own family are afraid of him: ‘My own brothers ask their children to stay away from me’.