When I heard that a man from the north of Ghana could be a contender to become the tallest person in the world, I set out to find out more about him. The only problem I found? How to measure it…
At a local hospital in northern Ghana, they told Sulemana Abdul Samed29, during one of her recent checkups she had reached a height of 2.89 meters.
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This would make him the tallest man in the world, but there was a problem: at the rural clinic they were not sure of his height because he did not have the correct measuring tools.
Diagnosed with gigantism a few years ago, the young man was attending a monthly appointment to deal with the complications of his condition, when he was asked to stand up straight against a measuring stick.
A surprised nurse told her, “You’ve outgrown the scale.”
Known by his nickname awuchewhich means “let’s go” in Hausa, I was puzzled because of the reaction it was causing.
Knowing he was taller didn’t bother him, since he’s never stopped growing, but he did feel a personal dismay.
The nurse on duty called her colleague, who in turn asked another for help. Before long, a group of nurses and health assistants got together to solve the puzzle and determine his height.
One of them suggested that they find a wooden stick and use it as an extension on their staff. This is how they arrived at the estimate of his height.
When I first encountered the Awuche a few months ago while traveling in northern Ghana, where his fame had spread through the area’s grasslands, I did not have a tape measure long enough to check his height.
So to settle the matter, and armed with a 16-foot tape measure, I returned to the town of Gambaga.
The plan was for him to lean against a wall, mark how far his head came up, and then measure his height with the tape.
“From the way they measure me, I can’t say everything is perfect,” Awuche admitted, happy with my plan to get his exact height.
It turned out to be taller than most of the houses in his neighborhood, but after a good search we found a suitable building with a high enough wall.
He took off his shoes. They were slip-ons made especially for him from car tires.
When we measured it, one of his neighbors climbed on a wooden stool to get up to him so he could mark the wall with a piece of charcoal.
We spread the tape measure tightly from the marked line to the floor. Awuche looked longingly.
“Awuche, the tape measure is 7 feet 4 inches (2.14 m),” I said.
Sporting his inimitable smile, he replied, “Wow, so what does it mean?”
“Well, the tallest man alive is 8 feet 2.8 inches (2.50 m), barely a foot taller than you.”
I meant Sultan Kosen40, who lives in Turkey and holds the Guinness World Record.
“I’m still growing. Who knows, maybe one day I can reach that height too,” he said, not at all upset by the discrepancy with the figure the hospital gave him.
“Every three months I grow… If you haven’t seen me for three or four months, you will have noticed that I have increased in size,” he explains.
This increase in height began to be noticed when he was 22 years old and living in the capital Accra.
Awuche had moved there to try his luck in the city, where one of his brothers lived, after finishing high school.
You have Marfan syndrome, a condition that can cause the spine to become abnormally curved.
At the time, he was working at a butcher shop and saving money to take lessons at a driving school.
But he woke up one morning confused: “I realized that my tongue had expanded in my mouth to the point that I couldn’t breathe. [adecuadamente]”, he recounts.
He visited a local pharmacy to get some medicine. However, days later she noticed that all other parts of her body had begun to increase in size.
When family and friends from his village visited the town, they all commented on his growth spurt, and it was at this point that he realized that he was gradually becoming “a giant.”
He began to stand out above everyone, and he sought medical help as the growth brought other complications.
He has been left with an abnormally curved spine, one of the prominent symptoms of his condition, which is a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissues.
This results in abnormally long limbs. The most serious complications involve heart defects.
The doctors say that need a surgical procedure on the brain to stop growth.
But Ghana’s public health insurance cannot cover this, so they only provide him with basic treatment.
For each hospital visit, you still have to pay $50.
His health problems eventually forced him to return to his hometown six years ago and give up his dreams of becoming a driver.
“I was planning to go to driving school, but even when I move the seat back, I can’t hold the steering wheel… I can’t straighten my leg because my knee will hit the steering wheel.”
Now he lives with his brother and manages after setting up a small business selling credits for mobile phones.
His height has also reduced his social life.
“I used to play football like any other youngster, I was athletic but now I can’t even walk short distances,” he explained.
a local celebrity
But Awuche doesn’t let his problems get him down. He is full of hope as his tall, lean body meanders through the dusty lanes of the village, smiling when people call out to him.
A group of old men sitting next to a shed exchange jokes, children greet him, some women come up to hug him and also joke with him.
Some people want to take selfies, even strangers reach out to ask if he’s the “giant” they’ve seen on social media.
“Usually I’d say, ‘Yeah, come over,’ and we’d stop and take good pictures,” says Awuche.
He is very grateful to his family for their emotional support and says he doesn’t know of any other relatives, including his three brothers, who show any signs of having his condition.
“None of them are tall, I am the tallest man.”
She would love to get married and have children one day, but wants to focus on her health first.
Her priority is to raise money for surgery to treat a serious skin problem on a leg, ankle and foot caused by overgrowth of the limb.
Looking at his bandaged toes, Awuche refuses to be discouraged by his situation.
“This is how Allah chose it for me, I’m fine. I have no problem with the way God created me.”
I am Jack Morton and I work in 24 News Recorder. I mostly cover world news and I have also authored 24 news recorder. I find this work highly interesting and it allows me to keep up with current events happening around the world.