An Indian Teenager’s Painful “Human Snake” Skin Condition Has Finally Been Cured

Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images.

If you thought getting your roots touched up every six weeks was a drag, try being Shalini Yadav. That’s how often the India native, 16, has shed her skin for her entire life, due to a rare condition called lamellar ichthyosis that causes the epidermis to grow quickly, dry up into scale-like formations, and fall off.

The effects of Yadav’s genetic mutation earned her the cruel nickname of the “human snake,” and with her family lacking the finances to afford the proper medical care, the teenager’s only methods of treatment were hourly soaks and constantly moisturizing her body just to alleviate the symptoms. The skin on her limbs became so tight and painful that she eventually became wheelchair-bound, and she was kicked out of school because the other children were frightened by her appearance.

But things are looking up for Yadav, after a team of specialists from the International Medical Academy in Málaga, Spain, caught wind of her plight and offered to bring her to Europe for free treatment. Yadav arrived at Hospital Banus in Marbella on September 10, and ten days after the start of her new medication, doctors say her skin has stopped shedding entirely. “As you can see, we had a very positive response in just ten days of medication,” said dermatologist Enrique Herrera. “I expect in the next two months she will be completely normal.”

This week, the delighted Yanav and her newly clear skin returned to her hometown of Nowgong, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. “I can’t tell you how happy this makes me,” she said. “It feels great. I haven’t got a new skin — I’ve just got a new life.” Her father Rajbahadur added, “It was really overwhelming to see how much love and compassion Spanish people had for a poor Indian girl with no means.”

In addition to the $60,000 worth of treatment she’s already received, Yanav will receive constant support from the specialists in Spain for the rest of her life. Her first plan of action is returning to school. “I want to study well and become a doctor. I want to help people like me,” she said. “I want to do what the doctors in Spain have done for me.” Perfect — we need more strong women in STEM.

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