Saturday, February 17, 2007

Phillies pick up polydactlyly pitcher


He looks like a modern-day giant. He's 6 feet 5, wide-bodied and tips the scales at 250-plus. His head is the size of a large pumpkin, his 1970-ish afro is big and his long goatee adds intimidation.

Of course, what this Goliath is known best for is the extra finger on each hand, which you could say makes new Phillies reliever Antonio Alfonseca twice the man as Hall of Fame pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown.

The Dominican-born right-hander, who also has six toes on each foot, isn't the least bit embarrassed about his rare condition known as polydactyly. His grandfather had it, too, and quite frankly, he's proud of who he is and what he has.

“People want to see it,” Alfonseca said after working out with the Phillies for the first time the other day. “It doesn't bother me. Jesus gave this to me, so what can I do? I gotta take it.”

Studio looking for cast members with "limb differences"

From the Signal (Santa Clarita, CA):

Universal Pictures has an open cattle call for people - NO ACTING EXPERIENCE NECESSARY - who'd like to be in a film with Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks. Yes. THAT Julia and Tom. We ain't foolin'. Call 310-364-3661. The location is at 11009 East Washington Ave., El Cajon, CA 92019. The production office is specifically looking for "Men, Women, and children who have limb differences or Unique Phiscial Characteristics."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ACA Survey of Prosthetic Coverage Restrictions

The Amputee Coalition of America has released a survey that found a wide disparity between what private insurers will cover for prosthetic devices. The ACA is advocating at the state and federal level for legislation that requires all private health insurers to provide coverage for the "fitting, repair or replacement of a prosthetic device and/or component."

Friday, February 9, 2007

Did da Vinci have a hand deformity?

The San Diego Union-Tribune had this article from last week on a California man who believes Leonardo da Vinci had a hand deformity.

(Ben) Sweeney's research convinced him that da Vinci had a congenital defect – a webbed, or syndactyl, hand. The artist's drawings of his own hand, Sweeney contends, seem to depict a webbed third and fourth finger, characteristic of syndactyly, and a pointed little finger. Sweeney also singles out similarly deformed left hands in other da Vinci artworks – including the hand of Jesus Christ in “The Last Supper.”

Sweeney shared his research with Dr. Joseph Upton at Harvard. Upton is one of the country's leading hand specialists.

“What he has shown me is certainly very believable,” Upton said of Sweeney's research.

While no one will ever be able to prove the theory, “you can't rule it out,” Upton said. He noted that the malformation of the ring finger and third finger depicted in da Vinci's art matches several hand casts in his office.

Upton concluded, “If he didn't have the deformity himself, he certainly saw people who did.” He also said the deformed left hand of Christ in “The Last Supper,” thought by some art experts to be a depiction of da Vinci's own hand after he suffered a stroke, is inconsistent with that of a stroke victim.

Sweeney is in the early stages of his research and it will be interesting to see if his findings get any traction with da Vinci experts and other art historians.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Basketball star doesn't sweat extra digits

The Athens Banner Herald has this article on Auburn Tiger basketball player Frank Tolbert. Tolbert is a starting guard for the Tigers and also has polydactyly. Excerpt from the article follows:

Tolbert doesn't set himself apart with his high tempo alone. He also has a small extra finger protruding from the side of both hands, a birth defect called polydactyly. It doesn't give him any edge gripping the ball.

"People come up and ask me, 'Can I move it? Does it affect me?' I always just tell them, no," said Tolbert, whose father and grandmother also have extra digits. "It's just there."

He's not sensitive about the subject, laughing off the occasional heckling from opposing fans. He particularly liked one visiting fan's sign that read: "Hey, Frank. High Six."

"It just makes me laugh," Tolbert said. "I always joke around about my fingers anyway."

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Visit to the Geneticist

A couple weeks ago we took our daughter to see a local geneticist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. While they didn't do blood work during this first appointment, the doctor did examine her hand. As with the majority of doctors we've seen, he did not think it was amniotic band syndrome -- do to tell-tale signs like the formation of finger nails.

His best initial guess was an atypical version of ectrodactyly, which is the medical term for the unfortunately labeled "lobster claw." The timing is ironic given that this condition is in the news courtesy of Bree Walker's appearance on Nip/Tuck.

Based on previous consultations and our own research, both my wife and I are skeptical it's actually ectrodactyly. That condition usually means the third metacarpal bone is missing and the hand forms a deep cleft where that bone should be. While we haven't had a truly conclusive x-ray on our daughter's hand, the hand surgeon we saw in Omaha thought he felt that all the metacarpal were present and during our initial consultation at the Curtis National Hand Center, I recall that team also ruling out ectrodactyly.

I'll be covering genetics in future posts as more tests are done over the next few weeks.

As an aside, in our appointment we were joined by about half-a-dozen medical students. The more the merrier as far as my wife and I were concerned. We know the rarity of this condition dictates that it's not often seen by most physicians, especially when they train and practice in a smaller city. Hopefully the subsequent discussions about my daughter's condition will help familiarize more local physicians with congenital hand deformities and improve their ability to diagnose and counsel other parents who will be faced with this situation in the future.