Childhood should be a time of play and whimsy when everything is easy and parents take care of the hard stuff. But some children are faced with extraordinary challenges that would probably defeat their older counterparts. Others possess unusual characteristics and abilities that we wouldn’t expect to see in a child.
Each of these 10 unique children has given us an incredible story to tell. Whether working to overcome unusual medical problems or learning to master their amazing abilities, these kids are an inspiration to us all.
10 Bayezid Hossain
Real-Life Benjamin Button
Bayezid Hossain was born in Magura in 2012 with progeria, an extremely rare condition. Progeria is known for its characteristic aging of the body at up to eight times the normal rate. As a result, six-year-old Bayezid lives inside the body of a 70-year-old person.
His hollow eyes and sagging skin scare other children, and his aching joints and weakened body will not allow him to physically participate in school activities. Due to his increased brain activity, however, he has above-average intelligence for his age. This constantly impresses his mother and teachers.
It is predicted that Bayezid will not live past his teenage years because progeria patients are known to die of heart attacks around an average age of 13. While it breaks his mother’s heart that she will not have her son for as many years as she had expected, she is constantly amazed by his intelligence and determination to enjoy life like a normal child.
Bonus Fact: Progeria is the condition which inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write his short story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which has also been made into a movie starring Brad Pitt. In the story, the protagonist is born as an old man and ages backward.
9 Shin Hyomyung
‘Peter Pan of Korea’
On the other side of the spectrum is Shin Hyomyung of South Korea. Hyomyung was born in 1989 and still has the characteristics of a young teenage boy, including chubby cheeks and a high-pitched voice. He has yet to go through puberty due to a rare condition called “Highlander syndrome,” which causes the body to age extremely slowly.
A documentary that aired in South Korea showed his growth to be normal until his teenage years. Then his aging seemed to stop. Now he needs a proof-of-age card to do things that any average 29-year-old would do with ease. Despite his condition, his health is recorded to be almost perfect for his age. Therefore, his condition is not holding him back in any aspect other than his dating profile.
The condition hasn’t stopped Hyomyung from fully experiencing life. He has been photographed at clubs and bars dancing with people and even buying alcohol from the local supermarket. The locals nicknamed him the “Peter Pan of Korea,” and he is surrounded by loving friends and family.
8 Shiloh Pepin
Shiloh Pepin was born with “mermaid syndrome,” medically known as sirenomelia. Infants with this condition are born with their legs fused together. For Shiloh, doctors gave their heartbreaking prediction that she would not survive longer than a few days after her birth in 1999.
Unlike most children born with mermaid syndrome, Shiloh’s legs could not be separated due to the way her major arteries were running through her legs. The condition meant that Shiloh had no uterus, bladder, or large intestine and was only graced with one partially working kidney.
Despite the circumstances, Shiloh continued to prove doctors wrong as she overcame her difficulties. In 2009, she celebrated her 10th birthday. Previously, she had undergone two kidney transplants and a number of other operations to prolong her life. She proved to the world that she was born a true fighter.
She attended school, appeared on several talk shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, and was an inspiration to children all over the world. Unfortunately, her fight came to an untimely end at age 10 after a cold quickly turned into pneumonia. Her body was unable to fight it off.
Shiloh Pepin’s story will continue to inspire children with disabilities all over the world. She was the girl who never took no for an answer, and it showed in her relationships at school and in her personality.
7 Tessa Evans
Tessa Evans from Maghera was born with congenital arhinia. This is an extremely rare condition in which the infant has no sense of smell and no sinus cavities. Her parents agreed to let her be the first patient to undergo a new procedure to help her.
A 3-D printer built an implant which could be placed under the skin to give Tessa the appearance of a nose. Once she has stopped growing, a tattoo artist will be able to impress natural contours and nostrils into the skin which will give Tessa the appearance of a “normal” adult.
The initial surgery was a success. The implant has given her a small nasal bump which has raised the area between her eyes. Doctors plan to repeat this surgery every two years until they are satisfied that her face is no longer growing and developing.
At birth, Tessa had to be tube-fed due to a tracheostomy tube in her neck to help her breathe. Aside from the first few months when she had to learn to breathe through her mouth, doctors say that there shouldn’t be any long-term internal dangers.
However, her parents are concerned about the loss of natural instincts that come with a sense of smell, including the ability to detect rotting food, poison, and burning. Tessa will have to learn to rely on her other senses, such as touch and hearing, to make up for this loss.
6 Pan Xianhang
Chinese ‘Fish Boy’
A boy was nicknamed the Chinese “Fish Boy” after he was born with a skin condition which left him covered from head to toe in scales. Unfortunately, it is an incurable condition which limits his quality of life due to constant itchiness and limited mobility.
He gets relief from cold water and several medicinal creams recommended by doctors. The scales were flat when Pan was born. Over time, they developed into thick scales which prevented him from sweating. Therefore, they affect his body’s ability to cool down.
Known as ichthyosis, this rare skin disease is inherited by a child when both parents pass on the same gene that causes the disorder. Over 16,000 children are born with this condition each year.
Unfortunately for Pan, it is currently incurable despite the desperate efforts of doctors who have reviewed his case. His nickname is derived from the Greek translation of ichthy, which is a root word for “fish.” Hopefully for Pan’s sake, a cure will be found which will enable him to live a life without pain and illness.
5 Kristina Pimenova
The World’s Most Beautiful Girl
Kristina Pimenova has been modeling since she was three years old. By age nine, she had been internationally dubbed the “most beautiful girl in the world.” Born in Russia, she began her modeling career as a toddler who was featured in campaigns for elite brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli.
Her Facebook page, managed by her mother, now has over two million likes. However, critics have begun questioning the girl’s fame due to the number of inappropriate and sometimes pedophilic comments left on her photos.
Kristina got into the industry through her mother, Glikeriya Shirokova, a former model who wanted her only daughter to follow in her footsteps and have the life she had. Glikeriya got the idea from taking her baby daughter to shoots where people would tell Glikeriya how beautiful Kristina was and that Glikeriya should get Kristina into modeling.
From this was born the world’s most beautiful girl. While many children are in the modeling industry at young ages, Kristina stands out because she is modeling at the level of an adult at only 12 years old.
4 Richard Sandrak
Little Hercules (AKA The World’s Strongest Boy)
In 1992, Richard Sandrak was born in a small town in Ukraine. Two years later, he migrated with his parents to Pennsylvania in search of a better life. Both his parents trained with weights, and his dad was into martial arts.
At age three, Richard began training with small weights to slowly strengthen his body. This all seems good and normal. However, in 1999, the family moved to California and the media recognized Richard, then seven, as “The World’s Strongest Boy.”
From there, he only got stronger as he continued to build his eight-pack abdomen and his abnormally muscled body. He headlined in many famous bodybuilding shows such as Mr. USA, The Emerald Cup, Mr. Olympia, and the Arnold Classic.
Critics were worried about the way in which Richard had become a young bodybuilder. Were steroids or child abuse involved? Richard never attended a normal school, and his father had been imprisoned for domestic abuse toward his mother. Reportedly, Richard had only 1 percent body fat, which is a particular health risk for a child who is still growing.
However, Richard has always denied that his parents played any forceful part in his training and claims to have simply fallen in love with it when he started. In 2005, he released a video program to inspire other kids to be fit and healthy.
3 Ben Underwood
Bats are blind, but do you know how they manage to get around and catch food without constantly flying into things? How they move with such grace without any vision at all? They are born with the instincts to use a system known as echolocation. They make noise and wait for it to reverberate off the objects around them so they know where such objects are.
This brings us to Ben Underwood, who was just three years old when he was diagnosed with retinal cancer. To prevent the cancer from spreading to the rest of his body, both of his eyes were removed and replaced with prosthetics. This rendered him completely blind.
Ben grew up in California with his family and lived an almost completely normal life. He had taught himself to use echolocation by creating a sharp clicking sound with his tongue. The sound echoed off nearby objects.
Due to his trained ears and his insane ability to accurately determine where things were around him, he successfully lived a blind life with no guide dog and no cane. Even more incredible, he could play basketball, skateboard, and even ride a bike home from school.
Unfortunately, Ben died in 2009 from the same type of cancer that had taken his eyesight. When the cancer came back, it spread to his spinal cord and brain. Ben was just 16 years old when he passed away.
2 Johncris Carl Quirante
In Cebu, Johncris Carl Quirante was born with a rare condition known as multiple hyperdontia which gives him more teeth than the average person. As his family was unable to afford a dentist until he was in the fourth grade, his mother didn’t know about his condition.
However, she did notice extra teeth pushing through his gums. So she saved the money for a trip to the dentist. There, they discovered that Johncris had around 300 teeth. That is almost 10 times the number of teeth in an average adult mouth!
Since the discovery, Johncris has been undergoing operations to have the extra teeth removed from his mouth. Otherwise, they could cause severe gum disease and eating discomfort as he gets older. It will take eight operations to remove all his extra teeth. These procedures will be spread over a few years to allow the gums to properly heal between each group of extractions.
So far, he has not had any setbacks associated with his condition. He is excelling at school and on the playground. He remains happy and positive despite his upcoming operations. Fortunately, his condition was caught before it affected his quality of life.
1 Charlotte Garside
The World’s Smallest Child
When Charlotte Garside was born to parents Scott Garside and Emma Newman, Charlotte weighed a mere 500 grams (18 oz) and was only 25 centimeters (10 in) long. At the time, her condition was so unusual that it didn’t have a name and was described as a rare kind of dwarfism.
Due to Charlotte’s size, she wasn’t expected to live past her first birthday. Now almost six years old, she still fights on. Her dedicated parents, who have three other children, were reduced to dressing her in dolls’ clothing after trying the smallest baby clothes and finding they still didn’t fit. Charlotte’s older sisters love to play dress-up with her.
The doctors’ prediction filled her parents with fear. However, with their love and care, Charlotte has thrived and is going to attend school. Unfortunately, she is mentally behind other children her age due to her condition. But it seems as though nothing will get in this girl’s way. She is now 70 centimeters (2’4″) in height and fits into clothes made for newborns.
While her parents will always worry about her future, they aspire to give her the best life possible. She has a stunning personality, and they just hope that everyone else will be able to see past her size and into her big heart.
My name is Tarni Kirkpatrick, and I am the author and editor of Life in Wonderland, an online travel blog. I started this when I began my journey around the world, and it has been growing ever since. Check it out at lifeinwonderland.net, or add me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.