The tallest man in the US has revealed that he needs life-saving heart surgery but is unsure if he can survive the operation.
Igor Vovkovinskiy, who is 7 feet and 8.33 inches tall, posted a video on YouTube on Wednesday, saying he needs surgery to fix a valve condition he was born with.
‘I don’t how much longer I’m going to be in the hospital. For that matter, I don’t know what’s going to happen really for the rest of my life,’ Vovkovinskiy, 37, says in tears.
‘I’m in the heart failure unit and I found out just a couple of days ago that I need surgery to fix…some kind of a valve issue that I was born with. But I don’t know if even such a surgery can be done on someone my size.’
Vovkovinskiy has a tumor pressing on the pituitary gland in the brain, which secretes too much of a hormone that makes him grow.
Because it’s in too difficult of a spot to operate on, the tumor cannot be removed completely, and it means he’ll never stop growing.
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Igor Vovkovinskiy, 37, who is 7 feet and 8.33 inches and the tallest living man in the US, revealed in a YouTube video doctors told him he needs surgery to fix a valve condition he was born with (left and right). However, he doesn’t know if he will survive the surgery because of his height
Vovkovinskiy suffers pituitary gigantism, which occurs when a tumor presses down on the pituitary gland. Pictured: Vovkovinskiy, left, and Zlata Ognevich of Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest Opening Ceremony Reception in Malmo, Sweden in May 2013
In the video, Vovkovinskiy says his stay in the hospital, where he’s been since last Monday, has been ‘hell’.
‘I can’t really sleep here in the hospital,’ he said.
‘The bed is so uncomfortable that I have to mostly sleep in a sitting position, and so I don’t get more than three or four hours of sleep a night.’
He thanked his followers for their well-wishes over the last several days before breaking down in tears.
‘I thought I’d had enough bad things happen to me in my life,’ he said. ‘I thought I’d had enough trials and tribulations in my life and now I get this news dumped on me.’
Vovkovinskiy suffers from a condition called pituitary gigantism, which occurs when there is a tumor pressing on the pituitary gland – which produces a number of hormones – in the brain.
The tumor causes too much of the growth hormone, which stimulates growth and cell regeneration, to be secreted throughout the body.
This causes sufferers to be large in stature compared to their peers. Their muscles and organs may also be enlarged.
It’s the same condition that plagued famed professional wrestler and actor André Roussimoff, better known as André the Giant.
The condition is rare with only about 100 reported cases to date in medical literature, according to MedScape.
Serious complications can arise from gigantism including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart failure due to enlargement of the heart.
Originally from Ukraine, Vovkovinskiy and his mother moved to Rochester, Minnesota in 1989 because surgeons in their home country wouldn’t operate on him.
The pituitary gland secretes too much growth hormone, which leads to sufferers being taller than average. Pictured: Vovkovinskiy in his YouTube video
Vovkovinskiy gained some fame for wearing a T-shirt that read World’s Biggest Obama Supporter. Pictured: Vovkovinskiy with fellow Obama volunteer Laurel Phelps-Bowman Bowman in September 2008, left; and meeting then-President Barack Obama after a rally in Minneapolis, September 2009
At the time, he was seven years old – and six feet tall.
The pair thought they would be in the US for only a month, but doctors at the Mayo Clinic weren’t able to remove all the tumor, according to 60 Minutes Australia.
Vovkovinskiy has been in Minnesota ever since and is being treated with medication to suppress the tumor’s effects.
‘Unfortunately it’s in a location that makes it impossible to completely eliminate the tumor for him,’ Dr Gregory Garrison, Vovkovinskiy’s physician at the Mayo Clinic, told the news program in 2012.
‘[It] means [the gland] continues to secrete growth hormone and he continues to grow.’
Vovkovinskiy has acted in a number of commercials and films and gained recognition for wearing a T-shirt that read World’s Biggest Obama Supporter.
He even got to shake the former president’s hand at a rally in Minneapolis in September 2009.