Didier Montalvo, known as Turtle Boy was born with congenital melanocytic nevus (CMN), a condition that moles cover the body. The giant mole covers 60 percent of the 6-year old’s body.
The family lives in a superstitious society in Colombia where there is belief that Didier’s growth was a result of being conceived during an eclipse. That means Luz and her family have to live away from the rest of the village. The community believes he was touched by evil forces, so he could not attend school or be baptised.
“I want to grow up,” Didier said. “But the mole won’t let me.”
Turtle Boy’s story was picked up by a news broadcast in Bogotá, for their special series called, “BodyShock.” The BodyShock is documentary specials that tell the stories of extraordinary real-life stories about the extremes of the human body. The special originally aired on Channel 4 in April of 2012.
After seeing Turtle Boy’s story, a top surgeon in the UK, Dr. Neil Bulstrode, offered to join the surgical team in the Colombian capital and remove the mole at no cost to the family. He flew to Bogotá with his team to surgically remove the mole from Didier’s body along with a series of skin grafts.
Fortunately, the mole was not malignant.
“Didier’s was the worst case I had ever seen. Effectively three quarters of the circumference of his body was affected. Obviously he has had to go through a number of painful operations, but we feel it was worth it. It’s great to see the photos of how Didier is getting on now. I’m really happy with how things have healed,” stated Dr. Neil Bulstrode.
National Geographic Channel (NGC) also followed Didier Montalvo in a documentary and the efforts of doctors trying to remove the shell-like mole from his back. The documentary called, “Turtle Boy” aired on National Geographic Channel on Sunday, July 8, 2012. They were there when Didier saw himself for the first time after the mole was removed. The 6-year old boy was speechless when he looked at his body in the mirror.
Since the operation, Didier Montalvo is now attending school and his mother is able to have him baptized.
Turtle Boy Documentary
A boy with a shocking medical condition confounds doctors.
A news report helps garner public awareness and financial contributions for Didier’s condition.
Rumors from the remote village attracted the attention of TV host. The prime-time show compared Didier to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
With the TV show, Didier is no longer an outcast, rather transformed into a celebrity. People from all over Columbia donate money to help give Didier medical treatment.
“One day, I received a call from the medical unit saying they had everything ready. Of course I felt happy that everything was happening just like that,” Didier Montalvo’s mother said.
Turtle Boy Surgery
A team of doctors plan the operation to remove Didier’s lesion.