26-year-old 'baby' baffles doctors in Meghalaya

SHILLONG: A 26-year-old youth who looks like a toddler has baffled doctors in Meghalaya.

Jerly Lyngdoh is an adult trapped, perhaps forever, in a baby's body and mind. Born on March 29, 1983, Jerly has not grown beyond 84 cm which is the normal height of a two-year-old baby and weighs about 10 kg.

He cannot communicate and needs his mother's help for any normal activity. In fact, the only sign of adulthood in him is his denture, his milk teeth having been replaced at the right age.

Ruling out malnutrition as a cause for the retarded growth of Jerly, senior paediatrician J Ryngdong, who is looking into the case at the government-run Ganesh Das Hospital here, said, "The boy has a proper diet, has strong teeth and has no digestive problem. What is more intriguing is his inability to speak a single word even at this age".

Born to illiterate parents in a remote village in the state's Jaintia Hills district, Jerly was shifted to the hospital on April 3 last after 17 months of unsuccessful treatment at the Shillong Civil hospital.

Jerly's mother Merilda said she did not notice any abnormality when her son was born but when he was about four months, she noticed some kind of an epileptic disorder. Too poor to afford proper treatment, she had relied on a traditional healer after Jerly became 15 years old, but to no avail.

Ryngdong, who admits that the case is a challenge, said the circumference of Jerly's head is equivalent to that of a child aged between nine months and one year.

"Since the investigation is still in the early stage, it is difficult to say the exact cause of the abnormality. We are examining factors like hormonal deficiency," the paediatrician said, rejecting the hereditary factor as Jerly's six siblings from the same mother are normal.

Without chronic health problems, a person like Jerly can live for four decades or slightly more, he says. Merilda, Jerly's mother, had to battle family prejudices and endure neighbours' derision to keep her son surviving. Once, she recalled, Jerly's grandfather had labelled him as a curse on the family and even advised her to throw him away.

"I did not flinch and rather decided to take extra care of Jerly while seeking help from civil societies. I was lucky. The Bethany Society in Shillong responded with whose help I brought him to the Shillong Civil Hospital," Merilda said fighting off tears.

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