Imagine giving birth to a baby with 31 fingers and toes—and no thumbs. Nope, this isn’t a joke. It really happened in China.
Hong Hong, now almost 4 months old, was born with 15 fingers and 16 toes. He also has two palms on each hand, but no thumbs. The boy’s family is from rural Hunan province, Northwest of Hong Kong.
According to CNN, doctors diagnosed the boy with polydactyly, a congenital condition that is more common than you might think; it affects one in every 1,000 live births. In some cases, the extra digits can be fully formed, but in others, the digits are small nubs that are non-functional. In fully formed digits, they may have all the normal attributes such as bone, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. Some babies born with polydactyly only have an extra digit on both hands or both feet, but it’s much more rare that both hands and feet are affected, according to Seattle Children’s Hospital, which treats babies and children with this congenital defect.
Polydactyly is usually passed down in families, which is what happened with Hong Hong. His mom also has the condition, with six fingers and toes.
She told CNN she was worried during her pregnancy that her baby would inherit it. Once he was born, the couple found that their son’s polydactyly was more severe than they might have expected. He was born with eight fingers on one hand, seven on the other, and eight toes on each foot. Surgery is the only way to get rid of the extra digits.
Hong Hong’s parents are trying to get the money to undergo the life-changing operation, although he’s currently too young for the surgery just yet. His parents have been seeking medical advice on how to take care of him but unfortunately, they’re getting conflicting advice. Some doctors say the surgery is much more difficult because Hong Hong needs some reconstructed thumbs after his extra fingers and toes are removed. In order to grasp objects, Hong Hong will need a set of opposable thumbs.
And then there’s the cost. The surgery is expensive—about $30,000, according to the boy’s father, Zou Chenglin. His parents have enlisted the help of the internet to raise money for the surgery. So far, they’ve raised more than $6,000 through online donations. Originally, they were trying to raise money via crowdfunding, but the internet being the internet, strangers criticized from far and wide about raising money online, so the parents decided to stop crowdfunding.
They’ve since returned to their rural town so the father can go back to work to support the family, but they’ll have to make the trek back to the city for medical treatment later on.
According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, the chance of passing the polydactyl trait on to a child when one parent has the congenital defect can be as much as 50 percent if the trait doesn’t skip previous generations. If it’s a recessive trait that doesn’t occur in every generation, the chances of passing it on decrease.