It is often remarked that children appear to grow up in the blink of an eye. Just ask any experienced parent. It seems like one day, their offspring is a helpless newborn who fits in the crook of an elbow on the way home from hospital. And the next day, they are all grown up and leaving home to start lives on their own. Spare a thought then for Michigan mom Darci Brown…
Indeed, Darci, who lives in the city of Jackson, MI, has experienced this phenomenon more drastically than most. In fact, her son, Broc, was always ahead of the curve. As an infant, her boy grew incredibly fast, and was towering over his kindergarten classmates at a very early age. An alarmed Darci asked doctors what was happening to her more than five-foot, five-year-old son. The medical professionals ran tests and then broke some horrible news. The Brown family had a massive problem on their hands, and one which could have tragic consequences.
Before that dramatic diagnosis, however, young Broc seemed just like his peers in kindergarten. He appeared normal in every respect but one. While the average five-year-old boy measures approximately 43 inches – just shy of four-feet tall – Broc totaled five feet, two inches. To put this in perspective, the average height of an adult American is five foot, nine for men and five foot, four for women.
With this in mind, Darci knew something wasn’t right so she consulted a physician. Their diagnosis was that Broc had Sotos syndrome, which is also known as “cerebral gigantism.” The hereditary condition, which affects about one in every 15,000 people, facilitates rapid, taller-than-average growth in newborns until the teenage years. By adulthood, however, most sufferers have settled into a normal height for an adult and there is nothing more to worry about.
Nevertheless, there was a long list of further causes for concern for the Browns. Along with the diagnosis, they were informed that Sotos syndrome came with a wide range of other problems. Many who succumb to the genetic disorder also go through developmental delays, including learning disabilities and the slow adoption of social skills. Others experience attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – or ADHD – obsessive compulsive disorder – OCD – and autism. Also common to Sotos sufferers are co-ordination problems and low muscle tone. To top off this list of woes, for a few there was also something much more serious to worry about.
Unfortunately, it was thought that Broc was in this number. His mom was told that the prognosis for her kindergartener was grim. Doctors told Darci that it was unlikely that her son would live to see adulthood. “There’s nothing that can stop him from growing,” the despairing mom told U.K. tabloid The Sun in September 2016 when Broc was 19. “I don’t know if he will ever stop.”
After hitting five-feet, two-inches tall in elementary, Broc became a six-footer just in time for middle school at the age of 11. By the time he made it to high school, the then 14-year-old had sprouted to a staggering seven feet in height. His mother noted, “He could easily grow six inches a year.”
And, like others with Sotos syndrome, Broc and his family had experienced many of the long list of attendant maladies. “He has ADHD and intermediate explosive disorder,” Darci stated. She explained the latter behavioral complication further, adding, “When he gets mad, he’s mad.”
Broc’s mom continued, “It wouldn’t take him two seconds to pop a hole in the wall – it could be very dangerous if he wasn’t on medication and able to be calmed.” However, Darci did maintain that instances of this type of behavior were rare for her boy. She insisted to the tabloid, “Overall he is a big softie, his heart is as big as his body.”
His disorder also took a physical toll. Broc described his chronic growing pains to The Sun, saying, “It kind of feels like a big tennis racket has gone through my back.” But, unfortunately, because the boy was born with only one kidney, his doctors have prevented him from using traditional painkilling medication to fight his constant aches.
Nevertheless, the ever-budding Broc tried his best to reduce some of the day-to-day pain he was experiencing. He explained, “I do stuff to stop it hurting and it makes me feel like there’s a needle gone through it – it’s hard to deal with. I just wish the doctors could do something to help my pain.”
In search of some relief her stoic son was suffering, Darci organized a 1,000-mile journey from Jackson to Little Rock’s Arkansas Children’s Centre. The boy had a consultation there with Dr. Bradley Schaefer, an expert in Sotos syndrome. Subsequently, the specialist was able to give the Browns some good news… and some bad news.
Unfortunately, Dr. Schaefer was unable to provide Broc with any sort of remedy for the constant spinal ache the boy was enduring. However, the expert was confident enough in the then late-teenager’s health to overturn the previous prognosis that Broc would die before he became an adult.
“Broc is easily the tallest man I have ever seen,” Dr. Schaefer told The Sun in September, 2016. “Unfortunately, he will always have to deal with some form of pain, but I believe that he will now have a regular life span.” As the jubilant teenager readily agreed, it was “the best thing I could have heard.”
By the time he was 19 years old, Broc measured seven feet, eight inches. The youngster was closing in fast on the height of 30-something Turkish farmer Sultan Kosen who is currently the world’s tallest man at eight feet, two inches. The tallest individual ever is acknowledged to be the American Robert Pershing Wadlow who died aged 22 in 1940, measuring eight feet, 11 inches.
While the wider world awaited further growth from Broc to see if he could overtake Kosen and Wadlow, his local community rallied around. But this was not just to cheer the young man on to greater heights and a potential world record. The people of Michigan wanted to be of practical help. Many of the fundraisers had witnessed for themselves the difficulties and expense of clothing and housing one of the tallest people on Earth.
Bearing in mind his outsized frame, Broc was forced to wear apparel which had been designed especially for him. Broc wore bespoke items from head to toe – and this meant a high cost of living. For instance, his socks alone cost almost $20 per pair to cover his size-28 feet. On top of that, Broc required a custom-made, eight-footer bed, and an individually crafted chair with a price tag of more than $1,000.
His mom spoke with gratitude to The Sun about the charity the Browns had received. Darci said, “We have had a couple of benefits for Broc where the community got together and helped us out. He made around $10,400. It didn’t last long, we had a lot of outfits, but within a year he was out of them and it was time to do it again.”
Although Broc’s giant height can cause a massive financial strain, the Browns are determined he should not have to pay for his condition in other ways. Both mom and son continued in their determination that Broc would lead a normal life. The teenager dreamed of having his own job, telling The Sun, “I hopefully want to work for a sporting goods store.”
With the danger of death lifted, and his health in the clear, Broc was looking forward to a long and hopefully contented future. In light of his tough childhood, Darci promised that she would never force Broc into a career that didn’t suit him. All the mom wanted for her child was joy and fulfillment. She summed up, “I just hope he has a good life and is happy with everything he ever does.”