Rare condition turns boy, 11, into an ‘old man overnight’
Mother’s heartache after cruel bullies brand her son, 11, an ‘alien’ and a ‘freak’ because mystery virus has left him ‘looking more like a 70-year-old’
- Shaun Tebbutt was diagnosed with partial lipodystrophy after his third birthday
- The rare condition means his body has a problem making, storing and using fat
- His appearance makes him a target for bullies who call him an ‘alien’ or ‘freak’
- But the brave youngster says having lipodystrophy makes him ‘unique’
An extremely rare illness turned an 11-year-old boy into ‘an old man overnight’ and made him a target for cruel bullies who brand him an ‘alien’ and a ‘freak,’ his mother has said.
Shaun Tebbutt, from Wootton, Bedfordshire, was diagnosed with partial lipodystrophy after his third birthday, meaning his body has a problem making, storing and using fat.
Despite having a healthy appetite, the condition has left the youngster with sunken cheeks and looking older than his years.
Shaun Tebbutt (pictured) was diagnosed with partial lipodystrophy after his third birthday
The condition has left Shaun (pictured with his parents) with sunken cheeks and looking older than his years
‘It was like I closed my eyes and my little boy had turned into an old man overnight, his mother Joanne told The Mirror.
‘Suddenly he was more like a 70-year-old,’ she said.
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She said she asks doctors at every appointment if there is a cure for her son’s condition – who say they hope that one day, there will be.
And his appearance has made him a target for bullies – who brand him an ‘alien, skinny or freak,’ his mother said.
Shaun is one of very few who didn’t develop the condition at birth. It is also rare for it to only affect his upper body
Shaun (pictured before he got lipodystrophy) says the condition makes him ‘unique’
And he said he worries about people staring stop him from doing things he loves, like swimming.
Despite this, the brave youngster says having lipodystrophy makes him ‘unique.’
But he adds: ‘I want people to realise I’m normal and they shouldn’t judge others by the way they look.’
His parents – Joanne, 46, and Brian, 48 – revealed they felt helpless as their son got thinner and thinner.
Shaun says his small frame means his skin hurts if the weather is too hot or too cold.
His parents say it’s a mystery how he got lipodystrophy as no one in their family had ever had it
What is lipodystrophy?
Lipodystrophy, also known as the ‘Fat Redistribution Syndrome’, refers to a number of disturbances in the way the body uses and distributes fat.
Changes to the body can include fat accumulation with an increase in fat around the stomach or girth.
Sometimes there is an increase in breast size in males and females. A small number of people have extra fat between the shoulder blades.
The condition can also result in fat loss – with wasting of the face around the cheeks and temples and loss of fat from the arms, legs and buttocks, with veins becoming more prominent.
Some people have a combination of fat accumulation and loss in different parts of the body.
Research suggests that the emergence of these physical and metabolic changes may be associated with the length of time on combination therapy.
There is no proven method of reversing these syndromes, but there are options that may help you minimise its impact.
His parents also say it’s a mystery how he got lipodystrophy as no one in their family had ever had it. Doctors believe it is due to a virus, but can’t pinpoint the case.
But his parents say he has a positive personality and ‘courage that helps all of us cope.’
Only 700 people have Shaun’s condition in the UK.
It left doctors baffled at first, because is also one of very few who didn’t develop the condition at birth. It is also rare for it to only affect his upper body.
People with lipodystrophy can have a lower life expectancy due to the risk of kidney problems and diabetes.
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