DISCOVERY HEALTH - GIGANTISM
Announcer: Millions of kids dream of playing in the NBA. Almost all that make it have one thing in common - height. If that's all it takes, then this guy is a slam-dunk. He's less than an inch away from being the tallest man on earth.
Sun Ming Ming: I am Sun Ming Ming. I am 22 years old.
Woman 1: Wow, how tall are you ...?
Man 1: Seven nine? Oh my God.
Announcer: Born and raised in China, Sun Ming Ming has come to America with a giant-sized dream.
Coach: Ming is here training to go to the NBA.
Announcer: We followed Sun Ming Ming for an entire year to find out, 'Could his towering physique become the stuff of basketball legend?'
Man 2: Sun Ming Ming will revolutionize the game of basketball.
Announcer: But ironically, the same extraordinary height that might make him a basketball superstar could also kill him.
Dr. Hrayr Shahinian: He may die right on the basketball court.
Announcer: This is Sun Ming Ming's amazing journey. This is the Anatomy of a giant.
Charles (Trainer): But very good.
Sun: I got really tired at the end.
Charles: It's good though. You did an hour and a half.
Announcer: Sun's on-going fatigue confounds everyone. Charles' years of experience seeing athletes train tells him this may be more than a conditioning problem.
Charles arranges for Sun to see a doctor.
Charles: Doctor saw some things that bothered him a little bit, and ordered one test, which led to another, which led to another.
Announcer: A blood test reveals a hormonal imbalance. Doctors suspect Sun may have a pituitary gland disorder. The only way to find out is with an MRI. Sun is squeezed into the scanner and the resulting MRIs hold the first clue as to what his real problem is - something no one wanted to hear.
Dr. Shahinian: He has a tumor inside his head.
Announcer: The tumor secretes growth hormone. This is the reason his frame has grown to such a gigantic size.
Dr. Shahinian: It is also affecting every other part of his body - his heart, his colon, his joints, and these can all become problems.
Announcer: Simply put, Sun has never stopped growing. He suffers from an extremely rare condition called 'gigantism.'
Dr. Shahinian: This condition is dangerous. In fact, this condition is a killer. Everything is big in these people, including their heart, and it fails.
Announcer: In the U.S., there have only been about a hundred reported cases ever. Normally, height is hereditary. Sun's growth is different, caused by the tumor lurking inside his brain.
Dr. Shahinian: I would like to be able have an endocrinologist replace his hormones. It is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because hopefully because of his height, he can achieve his dreams as an NBA player. Unfortunately, it is a curse, because this disease ... if left alone ... if untreated ... can be fatal and he may die from heart failure right on the basketball court.
Announcer: The only solution is a complicated surgical procedure, which has perils all its own. The tumor is crushing Sun's pituitary gland, but it has lodged itself against one of his carotid arteries - the main blood vessels from the heart to the brain. And it's also dangerously close to his optic nerves. Until recently, Sun's surgery meant a procedure called bi-frontal craniotomy - literally cracking open the skull to get to the tumor.
Dr. Shahinian: We're all set. Mission go. Okay? It's gonna be okay.
Announcer: But Dr. Shahinian has a revolutionary procedure called endoscopic endonasal.
Dr. Shahinian: We basically try to cause the least amount of disruption to the normal anatomy.
Announcer: The entire operation will be done through Sun's nose using an endoscope - a fiber-optic device with a camera. Once under anesthesia, Sun's head is carefully positioned.
Dr. Shahinian: The key of this whole surgery...a...is to use natural openings.
Announcer: Dr. Shahinian probes into Sun's head.
Dr. Shahinian: We gently chip off bone, which is protecting the pituitary gland, then we start evacuating the tumor, piecemeal.
Announcer: Watching his every step on a monitor, Dr. Shahinian reaches the area of the pituitary gland and Sun's tumor.
Dr. Shahinian: I know this is the gland. I don't need to go anymore further behind that. We have especially custom-made, extra-long instruments because his features are so big that the regular instruments are gonna be a little bit short. Now we're at the tumor. There's the tumor, right there, parts of it, and we're taking it out piecemeal. There's a piece right there that's gonna go to pathology.
Announcer: The surgeon must use care while he tugs at the soft tumor and suctions away the pieces. The surgery lasts nearly three hours. If all went well, Sun will begin a new life with what will in many ways be a new body.
Dr. Shahinian: Ming Ming, hi. All finished.
Dr. Shahinian: Okay? You did great. How many fingers?
Dr. Shahinian: Okay. How many fingers?
Dr. Shahinian: Excellent. You did great. Tumor's out. Okay?
He did very well.
Dr. Shahinian: Nice soft tumor.
Dr. Shahinian: Came out completely. We will do his hormonal testing in a few weeks and we will know for sure.
Dr. Shahinian: But I'm 99.9% sure it's out. Everything's out. It's clean.
Charles: Okay. Good
Dr. Shahinian: He should do well. Alright.
Charles: Thank you.
Dr. Shahinian: See you later.
Trainer: It ain't gonna come easy, you know that, right?
Come on, come on.
Announcer: It is now 10 weeks since Sun Ming Ming's surgery to remove a pituitary tumor that caused him to grow to nearly seven-foot-nine. His lack of stamina is a thing of the past.
Charles: His work is starting to pay off, and...I...it wasn't the fact that before the surgery he didn't work hard. It was the fact that he worked hard but couldn't progress. Now he's working hard and he is progressing. So, Sun is a little kid in a candy store.